Oh Look, the New York Times Gets the History of Guns In America Wrong. Again.

wild west guns gun control laws new york times

courtesy historynet.com

“The right to defend your property, life and liberty girds the entire American project. Not a single Founder ever challenged the notion of individual firearm ownership. Most celebrated it. Individual ownership of firearms was so omnipresent in colonial days—and beyond—that Americans saw no more need to debate its existence. Debates over the Second Amendment involved a disagreement over who should control the militia: state or federal government.

“Second, the idea that ‘Gun control laws were ubiquitous’ in the 19th century is the work of politically motivated historians who cobble together every minor local restriction they can find in an attempt to create the impression that gun control was the norm. If this were true, Kristof wouldn’t need to jump to 1879 to offer his first specific case. …

“The fact is that in the 19th century there were no statewide or territory-wide gun control laws for citizens, and certainly no federal laws. Nor was there a single case challenging the idea of the individual right of gun ownership. Guns were romanticized in the literature and art, and the era’s greatest engineers designed and sold them. All the while, American leaders continued to praise the Second Amendment as a bulwark against tyranny.” – David Harsanyi in The New York Times Botches America’s History With The Gun

comments

  1. avatar Tim says:

    “Nor was there a single case challenging the idea of the individual right of gun ownership.“

    Something -something-something that whole slavery thing something-something-something Democrats pushing gun control ever since.

  2. avatar Bearpaw says:

    I thought the NYT was instrumental in creating what the NRA is today. As the Black Panthers promoted what the NRA claims it stands for today and then the FUDDs lost leadership control ofnthe NRA, the NYT took the NRA’s side of the 2A arguement.

    1. avatar neiowa says:

      Go take your meds

  3. avatar Docduracoat says:

    Ex slaves who joined the union forces left the service and brought their firearms home with them.
    Can’t oppress armed people so easily
    So gun control (for blacks only) was introduced after the civil war

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      For those who come here seeking the truth about guns, rather than already knowing most of it, we should clarify that statement. The gun control laws passed after the Civil War were not specifically worded to control blacks, they applied equally to all races, on their face. However, the way they were passed was good ol’ white boys agreeing in the back room (with a wink and a nudge) that of course, not one of the universally white LE would dream of enforcing such laws against WHITE men, don’t be ridiculous, that would be unConstitutional! So they were designed and understood to DE FACTO apply to blacks only.

      1. avatar pod says:

        Exactly. Many a politician and judge copped to this on and off the record. They couldn’t explicitly word the laws to screen out black people, but it was de facto applied only to them. A white man with a unlicensed concealed pistol would just be sent on his way. A black man would be thrown in jail or worse.

        Then when it got a little too obvious, they just put fees and taxes in place to the point where only rich whites could afford it. Which was the inspiration for the NFA taxes.

        Until Florida kicked off the shall-issue scheme, fees for carry permits were often astronomically high in some places. For example, in Dade County (FL) it could cost upwards of $500 to get a carry permit, and even then it was may-issue.

        1. avatar Ed Schrade says:

          After the Civil War, it was against the carpet bagger law for anyone to carry a handgun. The ones caught were arrested, taken to court and fined. Their handgun was confiscated. This was applied to white men.

      2. avatar Nick Valentine says:

        There were definitely pre-Civil War laws in many states relating to restricting the rights of free blacks to own guns. Not hard at all to look them up.

    2. avatar barnbwt says:

      I always assumed the only reason they were allowed to keep their guns in the first place (even the Union was reticent about armed blacks and passed its own share of racially-motivated/enforced laws) was because it was easier than paying them. Soldier pay was always a very difficult task in those days before income tax withholding.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        My understanding of the ‘soldiers got to keep their guns’ at the end of the war is yes, but…… They paid for them out of their separation pay. Something like a dollar and a half for a rifle and a dollar for a sidearm. They were also allowed to buy their mounts if they were mounted troops.

        The .gov was dropping a force of a couple million down to about 30 thousand at the end of the war.

        1. avatar GluteusMaximus says:

          I did not know that

  4. avatar No one of consequence says:

    The subtitle of the linked article at the Federalist is:
    “You can oppose the Second Amendment if you like, but you can’t rewrite history.”

    That is exactly what the left seems to be trying to do, not only with guns but also socialism, and any other part of history that doesn’t bolster their viewpoint.

    He who controls the educational system, controls the past as well as the future.

    With a hold on arguably most college-level “soft” departments, and increasing numbers of students trending towards those areas of study (hey, math is hard!) they have a good start on the rewrite. Add that to what’s taught, and how, through high school, and, well, I’d argue they are starting to succeed.

    This is but one reason why local elections matter.

  5. avatar Kap says:

    blame the 30’s Chicago Democrats for all our gun control! as passed by FDR
    I wonder how come lame stream media never mention all the murders in the democratic Utopia and gun free Chicago,

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      Not to mention the resulting payola, graft, corruption, and kickback, political machine pocketing huge amounts of taxpayer dollars, and general government wrongdoing. The city has been a criminal enterprise for over 100 years.

      1. avatar neiowa says:

        Since 1833.

        PLA it’s 41.881832, -87.623177

  6. avatar daveinwyo says:

    The first socialist prez; Woodrow Wilson. Hillery: I am an early 20th century progressive. Wilson wrote the book on how to take over the youth in schools. Gobbles used parts of Wilsons book as a guide to Nazi propaganda. His good buddy Dewey (of dewey decimal system in libraries ) was of like mind. BTW both were dems. Both were eugenicists and belived in segregation. Also remember the KKK was against blacks, Jews and Catholics. JFK made a big splash ’cause he was the first Catholic prez. And a Democrat one at that.

    1. avatar J says:

      Jesus tap-dancing Christ. You forget to take your meds?

      1. avatar pwrserge says:

        Is he wrong?

        1. avatar neiowa says:

          Well, you could make a good case that TR was nothing more that a damn progressive.

      2. avatar C.S. says:

        Wilson also watched the KKK movie, Birth of a Nation, _in_ the White House… what a role model.

      3. avatar Gregolas says:

        Daveinwyo is entirely, historically correct. Wilson was a socialist and racist and all the other stuff. Read “Liberal Fascism” by Jonah Goldberg.

      4. avatar Colonialgirl says:

        How about you pull your cranium out of your waste disposal chute and go learn the truth and FACTS.

      5. avatar GluteusMaximus says:

        I don’t think he is wrong

    2. avatar jwm says:

      I remember the hell fire and brimstone baptists back in WV losing their shit when jfk was running and he was Catholic. Fun times.

  7. avatar rt66paul says:

    Many towns in the west would take guns from cowboys and miners when they would come into town to drink and make whoopee. I am sure that this was at the end of cattle drives and such(when the visitors outnumbered the townsfolk), but it did happen. Of course, this was because thirsty hard working men were off of work for a vacation and couldn’t handle their liquor.

    1. avatar DaveDetroit says:

      Unlike the movies, not every cowboy always had a rifle and sidearm. These were expensive tools.

  8. avatar ThisEnd^ says:

    You might what to reread your history of the United States and it’s Territories, but Arizona had one of the Toughest Guns Laws for a Territory within the United States in the 1880’s. And unless everyone when BLIND, all the Guys with Lever Actions in the Photo, are Territorial Marshals…

    1. avatar ROBERT Powell says:

      the arizona rangers were a very narrow-minded group of lawmen,the un-regulated wild country was extremely dangerous to any person white,black,and red. the large cattle companies and mine-owners of any size had their own “enforcers” of which most were wanted for one thing or another in other states or areas. the territorial governor formed the rangers to try to calm the regular working folks but like all politicians protected the good-ole-boys first and foremost. and the actions of the 26 or so rangers is historically very harsh.SHOOT FIRST WORRY ABOUT THE PAPER-WORK LATER.

  9. avatar JD says:

    I wouldn’t wipe my ass with the New York Times…..

    1. avatar Pg2 says:

      Lol, +10

  10. avatar former water walker says:

    Yep no gun control. Unless you were black,brown,yellow,red,Chinese,Catholic,female,POOR…

    1. avatar Nick Valentine says:

      Haha yeah the 19th century isn’t exactly a great place to go look for laws that were egalitarian or constitutional.

      1. avatar Pg2 says:

        The courts are not infallible, and are always influenced by the politics of the time.

  11. avatar California Richard says:

    But, when the constitution was writen there was no 6.5 Creedmoore. If the Founders could have imagined the destructive power of 6.5 Creedmoore they would have allowed for some government restrictions!

  12. avatar Nick Valentine says:

    “The fact is that in the 19th century there were no statewide or territory-wide gun control laws for citizens, and certainly no federal laws. Nor was there a single case challenging the idea of the individual right of gun ownership. Guns were romanticized in the literature and art, and the era’s greatest engineers designed and sold them. All the while, American leaders continued to praise the Second Amendment as a bulwark against tyranny.” – David Harsanyi

    Yeah not so buddy unless you accept that whole categories of people today that we would consider citizens weren’t legally granted their rights. There were colony/statewide laws against enslaved and free blacks bearing or owning arms for example. Here is one pretty plainly worded example: “An Act to Govern Patrols,” 1825 Acts of Fla. 52, 55 – Section 8 states that patrols “shall enter into all negro houses and suspected places, and search for arms and other offensive or improper weapons, and may lawfully seize and take away all such arms, weapons, and
    ammunition…”

    “Offensive or improper weapons” sure seems to be how many try to say “assault rifles” and other arms shouldn’t be legal today.

  13. avatar Sam I Am says:

    Elaine?

    There’s education about the history of gun laws here. Where are you?

  14. avatar neiowa says:

    A headline would be when the NYT/WP get something right (or correct).

  15. avatar BLAMMO says:

    I think I recall reading that the NY Times set up a Gatling gun in front of their building during the Draft Riots. Not sure, though.

    Isn’t Kristof their resident “Conservative”?

  16. avatar Richard Turyn says:

    Your myth-heavy colonial-and-after history lesson is refuted by some actual facts by an accredited historian.
    September 10, 2000
    Spiking the Gun Myth
    Before the Civil War, a historian finds, guns were rare in the United States.
    Related Link
    Book Excerpt: ‘Arming America’
    By GARRY WILLS

    ARMING AMERICA
    The Origins of a National Gun Culture.
    By Michael A. Bellesiles.
    603 pp. New York:
    Alfred A. Knopf. $30.

    For many Americans, the gun is a holy object, the emblem and guarantor of their identity. Without it, they would not be the self-sufficient persons they consider themselves, the very models for all lovers of freedom. To take away this external prop would tear out of them their very essence. This private conviction is verified, in their eyes, by a public fact — that American history, separateness and virtue have always been associated with the gun, if (in fact) they did not take their very essence from it.

    Imagine, then, the shock if this star of the show should turn out to be missing through much of our history. It seems impossible; and that was the reaction of Michael A. Bellesiles, a Colonial historian at Emory University, when — while searching through over a thousand probate records from the frontier sections of New England and Pennsylvania for 1763 to 1790 — he found that only 14 percent of the men owned guns, and over half of those guns were unusable.

    What happened to the gun we ”know” was over every mantel, the omnipresent hunting weapon, the symbol of the frontier? Bellesiles looked elsewhere, examined many different kinds of evidence, trying to find where the famous guns were hiding. ”Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture” tells us what he learned: that individually owned guns were not really in hiding; they were barely in existence. Before the Civil War, the cutoff point for this study, the average American had little reason to go to the expense and trouble of acquiring, mastering and maintaining a tool of such doubtful utility as a gun.

    In the Colonial period, the gun meant the musket, an imported item that cost the equivalent of two months pay for a skilled artisan. Without constant attention its iron rusted, and blacksmiths were ill equipped to repair it (they shoed horses and made plows). The musket was not efficient for self-defense or hunting. It was not accurate beyond a few hundred feet (it had no sight, and soldiers were instructed not to aim, since volleys relied on mass impact). It frequently misfired and was cumbersome to reload, awkward qualities for individual self-defense; by the time you had put ball and powder back in, your foe would be upon you with knife, club or ax. Most murders were committed with knives, and — contrary to the myth of primitive violence — there were few murders outside Indian warfare (in North Carolina, on the average, there was only one murder every two years between 1663 and 1740).

    The same factors that made the musket ineffective for self-defense made it practically useless for hunting. Scare the rabbit with one inaccurate shot (which threw out dense smoke), and all game would be gone by the time you got out ball and powder and deployed them properly. Besides, most Americans were farmers, with no time to maintain expensive guns for hunting when domestic animals (chickens and pigs) were the easily available sources of protein. That is why no American factories were created to make guns.

    If most individuals did not own guns, where were the weapons for the militia? The state was supposed to supply them, but rarely did. In 1754, there were only enough guns to arm a sixth of the eligible militiamen. ”In 1758 Connnecticut owned 200 firearms and received 1,600 from the Crown, which made 1,800 guns for 5,000 militia,” Bellesiles writes. ”The government set about buying and impressing every gun it could find, offering additional bounties to any volunteer who would bring his own gun. Surprisingly few people were in a position to take advantage of this offer of quick cash. In one company of 85 men, only seven showed up with their own guns. The record indicates that this figure of 8 percent was fairly typical throughout the colonies.”

    This chronic shortage led to widespread confiscation and regulation of the rare firearms. Colonies had to take a gun census to know what was available. Owners were commanded to take care of their weapons. Weapons were confiscated for militia use if the owners could not use them. Bellesiles sums up: ”No gun ever belonged unqualifiedly to an individual. It could not be seized in a debt case, could not be sold if that sale left a militia member without a firearm, had to be listed in every probate inventory and returned to the state if state-owned, and could be seized whenever needed by the state for alternative purposes. Guns might be privately owned, but they were state-controlled.”

    There was a gun culture in 17th-century America, but not among Europeans. Native Americans anticipated the modern cult of the gun by treating it as a magic instrument, despite the fact that they had perfected their own technology. They could fire arrows rapidly and accurately, and bows were easily maintained, repaired or replaced — all qualities lacking in the gun of the time. Benjamin Franklin, that shrewd judge of the practical, wanted Europeans to acquire facility with the bow, as the better weapon. Spain’s colonial authorities deliberately addicted Indians to the gun — since, as Bernardo de Gálvez said, Native Americans would then ”lose their skill in handling the bow” and would be dependent on Europeans for ball and powder. The South Carolina government adopted the same policy, reasoning that ”we shall be able to ruin them by cutting off the supply of ammunition.”

    If the bow was a great weapon at distance, the tomahawk — wielded as medieval warriors used the battle-ax, or as 18th-century soldiers did the bayonet — was a perfect close-range weapon. Indians regularly awaited the first gun volley, then charged with tomahawk while the soldiers were trying to reload their guns, just as British troops charged with the bayonet Americans trying to reload their muskets. This made some Scots Highlanders serving in the French and Indian War adopt the tomahawk themselves. The Indians’ superstition about the gun had, at this stage, some of the deleterious effects we see in the modern cult of it — neglect of common-sense recognition of its limits and evil side effects — though some leaders recognized the danger. The Snake tribe destroyed any guns that came their way, and the Assinoboin prohibited their use in hunting.

    The Revolutionary War dispels the idea that Americans were great marksmen. How could they be, when most did not own guns and those who did had little practice? Ammunition was so hard to come by that ”wasting” it in drill was discouraged. Even in the rare situation where a hidden American force could aim at British troops forced to flee past in narrow file, the results were not what one might expect. On the long day of irregular battle following the engagement at Concord in 1775, 3,763 American participants could hit only 273 human targets, killing 65 men. The British on that day, without the advantage of aiming at leisure from hiding, killed 50 Americans.
    (Omitted)
    Only in the Civil War did Americans generally acquire and become familiar with guns. But even so it was not the lone gunman’s revolver but the government’s cavalry rifle that ”tamed” the West, as scholars like Robert Dykstra of the State University of New York at Albany have revealed. The mythology of the gun would be elaborated and drummed into Americans, during the second half of the 19th century, by massive advertising and by popular celebration in dime novels and Wild West shows. This is a story Bellesiles has partly told in earlier articles, and one hopes he will take it up systematically in a successor volume on the gun cult — its late rise, its false premises and promise, its devastating effects. Bellesiles has dispersed the darkness that covered the gun’s early history in America. He provides overwhelming evidence that our view of the gun is as deep a superstition as any that affected Native Americans in the 17th century.
    Garry Wills is the author of ”A Necessary Evil: A History of American Distrust of Government” and ”Papal Sin.”
    https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/00/09/10/reviews/000910.10willot.html

    1. avatar Ragnarredbeard says:

      Not sure how probate records are a valid measure of gun ownership. Probate records would only list guns or other property items that were part of a deceased’s estate. Most people probably gave their guns away or sold them before they died. Of all my relatives who have died since about 1970 (both grandfathers, my father, two uncles, an aunt) who owned guns, not a single gun was part of their estate. They gave them to my brother, my cousin, etc.

    2. avatar jwm says:

      Richard. The colonials wrested an already occupied nation away from its first inhabitants unarmed? The settlers were better with bows and arrows than the natives?

      You are a special kind of person, aren’t you? You made Trumps time in the white house and his loading of fed courts possible.

      Thank you.

      1. avatar Sam I Am says:

        The premise underlying the “myth” fraud is that because it can be shown the vast majority of people did not actively exercise their RTKBA, then it is a second class right at best, and an unnecessary right to boot. Therefore, government is free to regulate that second class right as it sees fit. Because guns, and children, and safety, and icky, etc.

    3. avatar jwm says:

      bellesiles? That discredited hack that had to quit his job because of his falsified book? As a troll you’re not very good.

      1. avatar Nick Valentine says:

        Yeah he and Lott are opposite sides of the same coin. Both trying to “prove” their points for their own political motivations by falsifying data and then gathering accolades from their respective camps. Historians by and large are liberal (I’m one of them), but most are also pretty realistic about things. Most people in the know should have known “Arming America” was a fraud from the get go.

        1. avatar jwm says:

          Not really. bellesiles was a complete fraud hoping to suppress human and civil rights. Lott made a couple of bumbles but overall his work stands up and he hasn’t been run out of public life.

    4. avatar Sam I Am says:

      Irrelevant, incompetent and immaterial!

      The Second Amendment is not dependent on: need; social usefulness; common usage; compelling government interest; numbers in existence; caliber, type or operating system; any one’s opinion; historical record; hope; interpretation; religious belief. As already mentioned, the amendment is 27 words, a paragraph totally lacking any exceptions, conditions, qualifications or permissions (especially permission from the government the amendment was designed to protect us from). The “myth” is that gun ownership can be restricted by government simply because government (or society) dislikes the amendment.

      As I noted to Elaine D., I do not look to mental midgets to explain to me what their intellectual superiors meant; I go to the original sources. This idea of a myth about gun ownership is a declaration by Lilliputians who are desperate to de-fang the populace so as to make it less a threat to rogue government. Liberals, gun-grabbers and statists need a myth of rampant gun control in our history to justify their mental derangement.

    5. avatar Jonathan-Houston says:

      Pssst….just in case you haven’t picked up a paper in, say, oh, the past couple of decades, that book “Arming America” has been thoroughly discredited. The prizes it initially won have been rescinded. Author Bellesiles has been fired from Emory University and the National Endowment for the Humanities has stripped him of his fellowship. He’s been drummed out of American academia altogether. Last reports had him teaching in Scotland in obscurity.

      He fabricated evidence throughout. He claimed to have used primary sources, which in reality no longer existed. What primary sources he did use he deliberately misquoted to give the exact opposite reading of the original documents. The best of this work, meaning the parts that aren’t outright lies, demonstrates extremely poor scholarship and faulty reasoning.

      Even Gary Willis, whom you’ve also quoted here, declared he had been deceived by Bellesiles and that the book was a fraud.

      Clearly, you had the nerve to come in here and post among some of the most well educated people on the Internet on the topic of firearms in America. What’s astounding is that you have no shame to post such pure, unadulterated dreck and try to pass it off as fact.

      Un…f’ing…..believable!

    6. avatar Kurt says:

      Wow. You actually cite Bellesiles. Poor you.

      His work has been discredited, debunked and thrown in the trashbin of historical scholarship.

      This should tell you all you need to know about him:
      http://guncite.com/gun_control_bellesiles.html
      including his resignation from Emory, the rescinding of the Columbia award for his book, and his utter humiliation in the scholarly community for falsifying nearly every “fact” in his book.

      Gary Will’s book is no better.

    7. avatar Scoutino says:

      Why would half of gun owners keep unusable guns? Wasn’t it meant that those were unusable for contemporary military use, meaning rifles?

      And excuse me if I don’t give much attention to someone who says that “Native Americans anticipated the modern cult of the gun by treating it as a magic instrument, despite the fact that they had perfected their own technology.” Cramming so much bull excrement in one sentence deserves special award. Guns are tools, not magic talismans to us – projection of gun grabber’s own fuzzy thinking notwithstanding. And perfected ‘technology’ on stone age level without knowledge of wheel or any metal production? https://goo.gl/images/7HDK5K

  17. avatar DaveDetroit says:

    The fact remains, that more people have been murdered by their own governments than have been killed fighting wars. The 2nd amendment recognizes a natural right to resist, with commonly available military arms, any government (ours or someone else’s) or any mob, or any criminal who seeks to do us harm. But especially to resist political leaders who would lead our own government to tyranny. To say that isn’t possible in our day, is patently ridiculous.

  18. avatar Nanashi says:

    Given they got the history intentionally wrong on the Ukrainian genocide, I’m not sure why anyone expects the NYT to get anything right.

  19. avatar Aaron says:

    so, the NYTs lied again? huh. must be a day of the week ending in “y”.

  20. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

    What else would one expect of purveyors of Anti American Fake news,truth and facts mean nothing to them.

  21. avatar Kap says:

    May the bird of paradise fly over their heads and drop a load of manure May make them smell better, besides when you are lower than whale shit its a real climb back too gutter level.

  22. avatar Ark says:

    NYT is a billionaire propaganda outlet. It doesn’t matter. They know they are publishing falsehood and they are doing it for a very specific reason: To gin up support for taking your guns and keeping you defenseless against the people who wish to control and exploit you.

  23. avatar Skyviking says:

    Rogue Government: Look at what has been happening since the presidential election. The “Deep State” orchestrating a coup d’ etat, with the complicity of the “Free” Press.

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