Smithsonian: Wild West Had Gun Control (and it Failed Then Too)

Smoke of a .45 - Charles Marion Russell – Google Art Project
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AWR HAWKINS

On February 5, Smithsonian magazine published a column to prove gun control existed in the Wild West and inadvertently demonstrated that gun control failed then, in Tombstone, Arizona, as it does now, in Chicago, Illinois.

The Smithsonian article opens by challenging a romanticized view of the Wild West, positing instead an image of cattle down after cattle town where firearms were heavily regulated.

It presents Tombstone as a case in point and set the background for readers:

Marshall Virgil Earp, having deputized his brothers Wyatt and Morgan and his pal Doc Holliday, is having a gun control problem. Long-running tensions between the lawmen and a faction of cowboys – represented this morning by Billy Claiborne, the Clanton brothers, and the McLaury brothers—will come to a head over Tombstone’s gun law.

The laws of Tombstone at the time required visitors, upon entering town to disarm, either at a hotel or a lawman’s office. (Residents of many famed cattle towns, such as Dodge City, Abilene, and Deadwood, had similar restrictions.) But these cowboys had no intention of doing so as they strolled around town with Colt revolvers and Winchester rifles in plain sight. Earlier on this fateful day, Virgil had disarmed one cowboy forcefully, while Wyatt confronted another and county sheriff Johnny Behan failed to persuade two more to turn in their firearms.

Next, Smithsonian explains that the gunfight at the OK Corral was a result of the Earp brothers seeking to disarm Claiborne, the Clanton brothers, and the McLaury brothers. They told the story as way to highlight Tombstone’s requirement to disarm but completely missed the fact that the impotence of the demand was evidenced in the cowboys’ refusal to do so.

In other words, while Smithsonian seized on Tombstone’s requirement to disarm as paramount, they overlooked the greater point. Namely, that criminals had no interest in cooperating with it.

Sound familiar? It should. After all, the violence in gun-controlled Chicago surged to such a level that it skewed national murder numbers in 2016. Chicago had a complete ban on handguns from 1982 to 2010, they have a violence tax, county restrictions on the number of federal licensed gun stores allowed, and, like the rest of Illinois, requirements that residents get a Firearms Owners Identification (FOID) card before being allowed to own a gun. The FOID card does not allow residents to carry a gun for self-defense, they have to jump through another hoop and get a concealed carry permit to do that.

The point is simple—the vestiges of gun control are alive and well in Chicago yet violence rages. Just as we saw in Tombstone, criminals in Chicago do not place compliance with gun laws at the top of their daily to-do list.

AWR Hawkins is an award-winning Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News, the host of the Breitbart podcast Bullets, and the writer/curator of Down Range with AWR Hawkinsa weekly newsletter focused on all things Second Amendment, also for Breitbart News. He is the political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at awrhawkins@breitbart.com. Sign up to get Down Range at breitbart.com/downrange

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