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Myth (?) of the Gun-free Old West Towns

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by Bob's Grandson, May 9, 2007.

  1. Bob's Grandson

    Bob's Grandson Active Member


    Whenever I speak to my boss about the concept of allowing licensed handguns to be carried here on the IUPUI campus he bring up this image of the Old West towns where guns where checked in when you came to town. "They must have known what they were doing!" says he. I've directed him to one example of where this was not the case:

    James Gang at Northfield, MN

    but are there other sources I can direct him to that may disprove what I suspect is a cinematic creation? Or did they check their guns with Marshall Dillon?

  2. News Shooter

    News Shooter Well-Known Member

    It's not a cinematic creation

    That the Earps outlawed firearms in Tombstone. I know that is no help to you and I'm certainly on your side (having attended IUPUI)
    Good luck
  3. ilbob

    ilbob Well-Known Member

    Keep in mind that the Earps were far from being the good guys in real life as opposed to a movie that is mostly fiction.
  4. M2 Carbine

    M2 Carbine Well-Known Member

    That happened very little.

    My friend's father died shortly before reaching 100. His stories of this area, West of Fort Worth, were what books are written about. The Indians were still coming down from Oklahoma and raiding and killing. No matter what they did, if they made it back to Oklahoma, they were home free.

    The local news paper ran a series of stories about the town in the old days.
    Far from checking in guns when coming into town, the men carried their guns everywhere, even in church.

    One Sunday morning, in a church a block from the courthouse, the Preacher was preaching when a boy ran in yelling, "There's Indians on the square. The Preacher grabbed his pistol, that was laying on the pulpit, and yelled, "The Hell they are". The Preacher and the men in the congregation ran to the square where they killed the Indians. Then everyone went back to church to finish services."
  5. hso

    hso Moderator Staff Member

    Avoid the Old West references as much as possible. There's too much mythology around it. It's a red herring and has little relevance to today's world.

    Point out that in this day and age people who live in states with no restrictions don't shoot each other more than states with heavy restrictions, don't have higher accidental shooting rates and don't have higher gun crime rates. Remind him that violent crime rates in the UK and Australia have gone up since the confiscations and that gun crime rates have gone up in the UK as well to levels well above those prior to confiscation.

    Keep the discussion centered upon adults with carry permits. These are the only ones that would be allowed to carry on campus anyway. Cover the qualifications for permit holders. Detail the fact that permit holders are far less likely to be involved in an accidental shooting or a crime. The folks that might carry on campus won't be the irresponsible man-child he sees the students as being, but instead will be faculty and staff and adult-learners.
  6. Lucky

    Lucky Well-Known Member

    Did they outlaw firearms, or just open carry to discriminate against working men?
  7. News Shooter

    News Shooter Well-Known Member

    Wyatt Earp also

    Banned the carrying of firearms in cerain sections of Dodge City.
    It's not a myth
  8. Creeping Incrementalism

    Creeping Incrementalism Well-Known Member

    From everything I've read, town like Tombstone where bearing arms was restricted were definitely the exception.

    Have you ever seen Roger McGrath on the History Channel? He studied crime rates from available documentation, and found that the Wild West was more civilized than today.


    There is also a book about citizens in the Old West fighting against gangs of criminals:


  9. Eleven Mike

    Eleven Mike Well-Known Member

    hso is right. One way to shut him up about the Old West might be to ask him where he gets his ideas, and why believes them.
  10. John-Melb

    John-Melb Well-Known Member

    I remember reading some years ago in "Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer" by John Sadlier, that a number of people were quite outraged after the Kelly Gang attacked Jerilderie that no-one tried to stop them.

    Sadlier pointed out that one "resolute" fellow with a double barreled gun could have cleaned up the lot.

    Like your western bad boys, more than a few of Australia's "bushrangers" encounted ballistic rehabilitation at the hands of those they tried to pillage.
  11. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Well-Known Member

    First of all, I agree with hso.

    Now since we are on myths and the Old West I'll address this one.

    The Earps did no such thing. Tombstone's city fathers did by passing a statute, and at the time none of the Earps were involved in local law enforcement. Wyatt Earp never was a Tombstone City Marshal. His brother Virgil was for a time, and Morgan Earp sometimes worked as a night deputy under Virgil. On occasions during an emergency, Virgil deputized Wyatt as a temporary "special" deputy. As a rule, Wyatt did not routinely carry arms while he was in Tombstone, and on at least one occasion had to borrow a six-shooter when trouble arose.

    The law did not outlaw guns, but simply said that when someone came into town they had to check their hardware, at a hotel, saloon, or wherever, and the statute remained in effect well after the Earps had left.

    There were two reasons for this. One was that the "cowboy" element would ride into town and shoot at, among other things, the gas streetlights. This could cause a fire, and while the events were not shooting related, Tombstone burned down twice. A fire was no joke.

    The second reason was that the town was trying to present itself to the outside world as a safe place to come and invest money. Drunks and "sporting men" (gamblers) getting into gunfights did not help this image.

    And for the record they had the same law in Dodge City, KA. – and for the same reasons.

    Some folks read or watch too much fiction and too little history… :scrutiny:
  12. AR-15 Rep

    AR-15 Rep Well-Known Member

    well here is a fact, criminals don't abide by the law. And just for thought lets say you were a criminal intent on robbing someone, would you rob someone who might be armed, or someone around them could be. Or would you rob the people that could not defend themselves because of the law, and they were law abiding citizens? You can't really expect everyone to be unarmed someone will be just for the thrill of it, and then it will take an armed person to stop them. Its a catch 22, some people had to be armed to stop the ones that didn't obey the law. And back then there were morals, code, common sense, and respect for other people and thier property. Today everyone is looking to get the upper hand in a situation, therefore criminals resort to firearms to get that upper hand. The only way to stop them is to either be equipped as well, or make the punishment so great that they think twice about doing the crime.
  13. Onmilo

    Onmilo Well-Known Member

    As far as Myth goes, the old timers didn't have the plethora of laws on the books we have today.
    People carried guns as a matter of course in their daily lives.

    The disarming of the citizenry didn't really lawfully begin until the coming of the roaming automobile bandits and gangsters of the twenties and thirties.

    "Check your gun" basically meant:
    Don't wander around town with your iron hanging out in plain sight. It is an open afront and shows intent to do violence.
    You will be arrested.

    I am old enough to have had the pleasure of talking to the even older people who were there and who had even older parents who were there before them.

    It isn't a myth, it was the way it was and contrary to what the myth portrays, it was a whole lot less violent in those times than people may think it was.
  14. CWL

    CWL Well-Known Member

    I thought that "check your gun" laws/rules were geared towards visitors (not residents) of towns that would have large influxes of cowboys after a cattle drive.

    Flush with money and ready to cut loose after several months on the trail, these guys were the definition of "civic disturbance".
  15. another okie

    another okie Well-Known Member

    "Check your guns" was in a few cattle towns in Kansas and a few gold mining towns. In general, a lot of people carried and almost everyone had a gun nearby. The McGrath book is excellent because it is a real historical book, not a movie or a fantasy novel. He examined actual rates of crime and gun ownership in two mining towns along the California / Nevada border. I've read the book and recommend it.
  16. Majic

    Majic Well-Known Member

    The Southwest is where the towns banned carrying handguns and most of this happened after the Civil War.
  17. kludge

    kludge Well-Known Member


    Does he realize what neighborhoods surround the campus? Or that many, many people take night classes? Or how far lone females must walk to their cars? Or why he thinks words on a piece of paper will stop crime or criminals? Ask him why he is afraid of the good guys and why he thinks he is "safe" if none of the good guys have guns? (by law only good guys are allowed to carry guns)

    Tell him that I carried every day at IUPUI when I was a student there.

    I never shot anyone.

    No one (almost) ever knew, and I carried a full size S&W autoloader IWB.

    It was 11 years ago when I graduated at age 25.

    I still carry.

    I still haven't shot anyone.

    I am NOT the exception.

    The reason for the no gun policy is very simple. Liability.
  18. Blue .45

    Blue .45 Well-Known Member

    Great Book! I just ordered "The Best Defense: True Stories of Intended Victims Who Defended Themselves With a Firearm' by the same author. Similar to the first book, only the events are from more recent times.

  19. ArmedBear

    ArmedBear Well-Known Member

    There are several historical guns (generally pocket model revolvers from Colt and Remington, and Derringers of many sorts) that existed only because people carried them when they didn't want to be seen carrying them. This included places where guns "weren't allowed."

    So while there may have been some restrictions on carrying, that didn't mean that there was a gun-free town, saloon or riverboat in the land. There weren't.:) It just meant that people carried concealed weapons instead.
  20. coelacanth

    coelacanth Well-Known Member

    Old Fuff is on target as usual. . . . .

    The locals in and around Tombstone never were far from the necessary hardware regardless of the town ordinance. Apparently the law pertained mostly to visitors and folks wandering in from parts unknown and a scattergun behind the bar or a hogleg in the cash register drawer was acknowledged as necessary and prudent. BTW - if you're ever there, stop in the gunshop around the corner from the OK corral - now THAT's a gunshop.:D

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