Gun Control in the Wild West
There’s been a bunch of good stuff written about gun control in the wake of the Tucson shootings, from this informative piece in the L.A. Times to Gail Collins’ column called “A Right to Bear Glocks?” But as a historian, I was most interested to read Georgetown professor Katherine Benton-Cohen’s article, “Even Tombstone Had Gun Laws.” Check this out:
For all the talk of the “Wild West,” the policymakers of 1880 Tombstone—and many other Western towns—were ardent supporters of gun control. When people now compare things to the “shootout at the OK Corral,” they mean vigilante violence by gunfire. But this is exactly what the Tombstone town council had been trying to avoid.
In late 1880, as regional violence ratcheted up, Tombstone strengthened its existing ban on concealed weapons to outlaw the carrying of any deadly weapons within the town limits. The Earps (who were Republicans) and Doc Holliday maintained that they were acting as law officers—not citizen vigilantes—when they shot their opponents. That is to say, they were sworn officers whose jobs included enforcement of Tombstone’s gun laws.