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The NRA-ILA writes [via]:  An article for Smithsonian magazine (Matt Jancer, Gun Control Is as Old as the Old West) reviews the ordinances of Tombstone, Arizona, and other frontier towns in the 1880s, observing that the gun control laws of the time were imposed at the local level, and that bearing arms was a “heavily regulated business.”

The notorious Gunfight at the O.K Corral arose, it seems, because “Marshall Virgil Earp, having deputized his brothers Wyatt and Morgan and his pal Doc Holliday, [was] having a gun control problem.”

Tombstone (with a population that hovered around 3,500) had enacted Ordinance No. 9, effective April, 1881, to prohibit carrying any deadly weapon within city limits “without first obtaining a permit in writing.”

Later that year, lawman Earp’s brothers had charged one Isaac (“Ike”) Clanton with violating the ordinance in the context of escalating animosity between Clanton, the Earps, and Holliday. Clanton’s rifle was seized, and a judge fined him $25 and another $2.50 in court costs. The sheriff later intervened to disarm Clanton’s associates, but after several demands failed to convince them to surrender their firearms.

Soon after, the Earp-Holliday group converged on the Clanton-McLaurys, with Wyatt Earp allegedly declaring, “I want your guns.” A contemporary newspaper called what followed “one of the crimson days in the annals of Tombstone, a day when blood flowed as water, and human life was held as a shuttlecock.”

Tombstone of the 1880s is a peculiar model for those who today agitate for greater local authority to restrict or ban firearms.

Ike Clanton survived to file first-degree murder charges against the Earps and Holliday, claiming they had acted with criminal haste in precipitating the confrontation to kill their personal enemies.

The court ruling in the preliminary hearing dismissed the charges but determined that Virgil Earp, “as chief of police” who relied on the assistance of his brother and Holliday to arrest and disarm the Clantons and McLaurys, “committed an injudicious and censurable act… and … acted incautiously and without due circumspection;” however, this was not criminally culpable given the state of affairs “incident to a frontier country,” “the supposed prevalence of bad, desperate and reckless men,” and the specific threats that had been made against the Earps.

The ordinance, in this case at least, proved to be almost entirely ineffective. As recounted in the court decision, Sheriff Behan had “demanded of the Clantons and McLaurys that they give up their arms, and … they ‘demurred,’ as he said, and did not do it.”

More significantly, modern jurisprudence on the Second Amendment confirms that, subject to limited exceptions, the right of responsible citizens to carry common firearms beyond the home, “even in populated areas, even without special need, falls within the Amendment’s coverage, indeed within its core.”

The ruling, Wrenn v. District of Columbia (2017), arose out of a challenge to the District of Columbia’s concealed carry law, which restricted licenses to applicants who could satisfy a “good reason” requirement, as defined in the law (living or working in a high-crime area, for example, did not qualify). The District justified this scheme by claiming that the Second Amendment did not protect carrying in densely-populated or urban areas like Washington, D.C.

As outlined in briefs filed by the gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety, numerous local governments, like Tombstone, had historically imposed similar bans and restrictions on public carrying in urban areas (“Even in Tombstone, Arizona, people ‘could not lawfully bring their firearms past city limits.

In fact, the famed shootout at Tombstone’s O.K. Corral was sparked in part by Wyatt Earp pistol-whipping Tom McLaury for violating Tombstone’s gun control laws’…”). Allegedly, these laws “unmistakably show that large swaths of the American public considered public-carry prohibitions to be permissible in populated areas and consonant with the right to bear arms.”

Tombstone, Arizona (courtesy

This reliance is misplaced.

A brief filed by historians and legal scholars explains that nineteenth-century prohibitions like the one in Tombstone were “unusual” and imposed “in response to transitory conditions.” Any “supposed distinction between populated and unpopulated areas, offered to justify heavy restrictions on carrying in the District, is not supported by the existence of handgun carry bans in a handful of mostly small towns in the Wild West, when nearly all major cities had no such laws.”

The United States Supreme Court, in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago, had previously discounted arguments that local government handgun bans could be sustained due to violent crime rates in some cities and because the scope of the laws was limited to an urban area. Such local experimentation with firearm regulations could not come at the cost of inroads on fundamental constitutional rights.

Faced with yet another attempt to impose what was essentially a local ban, the court in Wrenn condemned the District’s “good reason” law as incompatible with Second Amendment protections. The Amendment is “not hemmed in by long standing bans on carrying in densely populated areas. Its protections today don’t give out inside the Beltway.”

Tombstone (courtesy

Much has changed since Tombstone’s heyday as a saloon-intensive, gambling boomtown and that “crimson day” at the O.K. Corral. Virgil Earp’s successors in law enforcement, the sheriffs, and lawmen of the western states, now agree that restrictive gun carry laws do nothing to stem criminal violence while depriving law-abiding citizens of their rights to self-defense.

“[I]nstead of leading to a ‘Wild West’ atmosphere or blood running in the streets, licensed concealed carry by law-abiding citizens helps reduce crime, and assists police officers.”

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the “lobbying” arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Visit:

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  1. Let’s take another tack. Many Jim Crow laws prohibited blacks from owning or carrying firearms. Why not use those laws as a precedent?

    • They ARE the precedent… after a fashion…
      When specifically excluding the civil rights of blacks could no longer be legally sustainable, politicians them implemented taxes, fees, and “Good cause” requirements on carry permits that would be issued at the discretion of those same politicians. Care to guess how many Blacks were granted permits? A wealthy white citizen, particularly one who “knew some folks in City Hall”, on the other hand would have little difficulty affording those fees and getting their Civil Rights Permission Slip.
      Naturally, some municipalities and states still refuse to let go of that unconstitutional power to this day.

      • I went there just last spring. Carried almost the whole time I was there until it came time to eat. In AZ you can carry in a bar as long you don’t drink and the bar is not posted. But alas the saloon we went to for dinner had a period correct sign for the tourists and I didn’t want to chance it.

  2. I find this funny. Instead of recognizing that even back then, the ordinances that attempted to restrict the carrying of firearms did nothing to stop anyone from doing so, except the law abiding.

  3. The “Wild West” is right where your standing as far as you know. Bad actors on both sides of the law continue to be a worthless fv<kstain on the fabric of humanity, and it will forever be so. They are the problem. The problem doesn't get to define the problem, nor do they get to suggest OR DEMAND, solutions. They can publicly F themselves with something sharp and heavy.

    Keep your guns for the end of America. You might have a say in what comes next. But, either way,


  4. The shootout at the OK corral was a faction fight,one still playing out today Democrats vs Republicans.The Clanton faction were Democrat and the Earp faction Republican . Gun/People control didn’t work better in the 1880’s than it does today.

    • I think you have that backwards.

      The Earps were the ones demanding to seize guns, and use the force of the state to deprive the citixenry of their god given, and constitutionally protected rights to be armed.

      The Clantons were the good guys…shell not be infringed and all.

      • The Clantons were within their constitutional rights in carrying guns into Tombstone…but good guys, they were not. Let’s keep that straight.

      • Some people can’t think outside the paradigm of the two ostensible choices the ruling class give them. 130 years ago? Politics of a territory rather than a state? The nominal Republicans trying to take guns and arguably involved in racketeering and murder? Doesn’t matter; R = good, D = bad.

  5. This is exactly why muskets need to be banned. They are far too dangerous to be left in the hands of irresponsible citizens. A musket is designed for only one purpose, to kill people and it is a military style weapon with a bayonet mount and a heavy brass butt plate whose sole purpose is to inflict violence on human beings.
    No one needs weapons like this. Obviously criminals are usually not well armed so citizens will only escalated what might be a manageable situation. Perhaps the criminals only intend to anally rape the citizen and take his silverware. No one needs to die in that situation. Managing criminals is a job for the police. Citizens have no business defending themselves since they are not trained for it and will make a bad situation worse. Thankfully cannons and long blades are already illegal, and murderous citizens claiming self defense must face justice for their crimes. I weep for the poor anal rapists who might die senselessly here. #banmuskets #banmuzzleloaders #banblackpower

      • “#banblackpowder?”

        Prisons are full of folks caught with various types of ‘white powder’ in their possession…

    • Cannons were never illegal. In fact, I rather suppose they are still legal today. I can assure you that there is no statute in California banning their possession, and they were commonly privately owned until well after the Civil War.

      • I don’t know about CA, Mark, but modern breach loading artillery is not illegal in other states. The types of ammo are restricted. Solid shot is legal. Explosive and chemical rounds are not.

        The laws are weird.

        • Muzzleloading cannons would certainly be legal, and perhaps a reproduction breach loader from before 1898, but I can’t see how a modern breach loading artillery piece or cannon doesn’t meet the statutory definition of a destructive device when a potato cannon does (according to ATF).

        • Nick. My information is that modern cannon and mortars are legal in most states with a stamp like a machine gun. Any ammo other than solid shot requires a stamp for every round.

          The stamps are thru ATF, just like a machine gun. Which includes the background check and lengthy waits.

          Basically a millionaires toy.

  6. Most of the wild west’s reasons for taking guns is that the men coming into town are going to drink, gamble, and make whoopie. It is not legal to carry and drink in a bar in any state I have been in, so the Sheriff/Marshall was doing them a favor by checking their firearms. Are they going to leave it in the glove box on the mustang?

    • Ain’t got a one. They spent their hard-earned cash on booze ‘n broads, and only had enough cash left for an old Pinto.

    • As long as 50% of the income comes from food you can go into most alcohol serving establishment in most states. Casinos are out obviously, we wouldn’t want anyone cheating the cheats. BTW, Wyatt Earp was 10 times the movie that tombstone was. Dennis Quaid was the best. All of you can kiss my rebel d*#”k, or I’m your huckleberry. It’s an easy choice. My momma always said never put off till tomorrow people you can kill today!

      • You shut your filthy mouth, just the scene with Val Kilmer flipping his drinking cup around was better than all of Wyatt Earp.

        Well…. bye.

  7. When I was a kid I ask an old timer about the cowboy days, he said his daddy was more interested in postholes then pistols.

  8. I always find it odd when anti’s, who are usually to the political Left, cite gun control laws at the local level in the 1800s. I mean, even if those existed, so what? The entire Bill of Rights was not seen as applying to either the states or local governments until the 20th century via incorporation. That’s why the First Amendment starts with, “Congress” shall make no law…” So all sorts of rights were infringed upon by the states and local governments then.

  9. Ok, cool, the writers for Smithsonian Magazine saw the movie “Tombstone” and decided to use it as a source. Apparently. It’s a good movie!

  10. Smithsonian was a terrific magazine for decades. It had all sorts of interesting articles and presented unbiased views on America’s history. Fifteen years ago, or so, it was taken over by bigoted, biased left-wing nuts with axes to grind and turned into harsh expensive asswipe. Canceled my subscription back then but look at it every year or so at the library and it gets just worse and worse – contemporary politically correct crapola gets injected into every effing article.

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