Smithsonian Article Reveals Gun Control in “Wild West” Was Feckless

The Smithsonian is busting two myths in one article, one is that the West was really wild, and the other is that gun control works in preventing gun violence.

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

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.

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