Old West Had Stricter Gun Control Laws Than We Do Today

Tombstone Gun LawsSince the extreme proponents of the “Open Carry” gun laws want to openly carry and flaunt their guns anytime and anywhere they go, I’m sure a lot of them are fantasizing about the good Old Wild-West days when every man carried a gun, without any gun control or rules. Once again a little research into history will burst their ignorant bubble.

Even in the Old West the citizens didn’t want everyone walking the streets of their towns packing a gun. They had first-hand experience with what this causes – violence and death. Even then there were reasonable people who were smart enough to know that gun control was the only answer to the problem. Many of the large Old West cities passed laws restricting, and in some cases outright banning, carrying guns. In many frontier cities, the law required those entering town to turn their guns over to the sheriff. In the Dodge City of 1879, a large billboard announced to residents and visitors alike “The Carrying of Firearms Strictly Prohibited.”

Tombstone’s infamous “Gunfight at the empty lot near Fremont Street” — later dubbed the “Gunfight at the OK Corral,” which was nearby, for marketing reasons — developed precisely because the Earp brothers were trying to enforce the law against carrying firearms in town, which the Clantons were flouting.

As history shows, gun control laws were actually put in place prior to the Old West. A brief history of gun control laws:

  • In 1813, Kentucky enacted the first carrying concealed weapon statute in the United States.
  • In 1837, Georgia completely banned the sale of pistols
  • In the early to mid-1800’s Indiana, Alabama and Arkansas all had concealed carry laws
  • In 1911 New York City passed the Sullivan Act
  • The 1920’s and 1930’s saw many states imposing “A Uniform Act to Regulate the Sale and Possession of Firearms,” which prohibited unlicensed carrying and possession
  • The National Firearms Act was imposed in 1934
  • The assassinations of JFK, Bobby Kennedy, and the Reverend Martin Luther King were the prime motivations behind the passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968
  • And more…

So how did we get to this point where we have regressed to be worse than it was even prior to the Old West? I guess America’s love for our guns and our right to openly carry them anywhere, anytime, apparently trumps everyone else’s rights to not be exposed to this nonsense.

I’m just waiting for the “Gunfight at McDonalds” to erupt…






3 thoughts on “Old West Had Stricter Gun Control Laws Than We Do Today

  1. Interesting article, but there are a few things that need to be said. First, gun laws in the Old West were local – most weren’t even state wide. Anybody back then trying to pass things like a national gun registry would have been tarred and feathered. Once you left the town where there were no-carry ordinances, in most cases you were free to carry. Second, the Gunfight at the OK Corral (which did happen on Fremont street as you correctly point out) wasn’t about violation of open carry laws. It was more of an organized crime war, as was the vendetta that followed. This was more like Al Capone and Bugs Moran fighting it out. That doesn’t play well in movies where you want one side to be the hero.

  2. Oh, and I should add that I’m generally against open carry laws, but against national gun registries, outlawing classes of guns because of what they look like, and so on. The 2nd Amendment exists to be a check on government power over the individual. If we lose that, our rights under the other parts of the Bill of Rights will disappear as well. Our government is already chipping away at the 1st and 4th amendments as we speak.

  3. If you do some research you might find that a lot of restrictive laws in the 19th century were brazenly based on racism, either against negroes or immigrant Irish.

    See this article by Clayton Cramer:

    The Racist Roots of Gun Control

    Now I think just about every state has some form of legal concealed carry. From what I have read those who, like me, get a concealed carry permit or license are some of the most law abiding citizens in the country. They may get arrested for a firearms violation, but no more often than sworn police officers getting arrested for a firearms violation. Just doesn’t happen that often.

    Legal concealed carry is nothing like what many imagine the “Wild West” to have been (and their idea is as I think you make the point to some degree, more based on movies than history).



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