Monday, January 10, 2011

Tombstone had Gun Laws

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

In the wake of the horrendous shooting in Tucson, AZ, Wild West imagery and cliches have been used to describe both Arizona and an "Arizona state of mind"... This is much the way in Italy, newspaper invariably headline a shooting or especially violent street crime as "Far West in Milano" (or wherever).

Friends at the Autry National Center/Institute for the Study of the American West have passed on the link to an article in Politico by Arizona-born historian Katherine Benton-Cohen noting that even in Tombstone, scene of the iconic (not to mention romanticized and fictionalized) Gunfight at the OK Corral, there were gun laws.
As bloggers and journalists invoke the hoary image of “frontier violence” and “Arizona’s poisonous political rhetoric,” it is not that surprising it took less than a day to mention Arizona’s most infamous bloodshed—and from a local sheriff no less.

The irony of Dupnik’s remark is that Tombstone lawmakers in the 1880s did more to combat gun violence than the Arizona government does today.

For all the talk of the “Wild West,” the policymakers of 1880 Tombstone—and many other Western towns—were ardent supporters of gun control. When people now compare things to the “shootout at the OK Corral,” they mean vigilante violence by gunfire. But this is exactly what the Tombstone town council had been trying to avoid.

In late 1880, as regional violence ratcheted up, Tombstone strengthened its existing ban on concealed weapons to outlaw the carrying of any deadly weapons within the town limits.

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