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The Myth of Old West Gun Violence

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by the iron horse, Jan 13, 2011.

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  1. the iron horse

    the iron horse Member

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    In his book, Frontier Violence: Another Look, author W. Eugene Hollon, provides us with these astonishing facts:

    * In Abilene , Ellsworth, Wichita , Dodge City , and Caldwell , for the years from 1870 to 1885, there were only 45 total homicides. This equates to a rate of approximately 1 murder per 100,000 residents per year.
    * In Abilene , supposedly one of the wildest of the cow towns, not a single person was killed in 1869 or 1870.

    Zooming forward over a century to 2007, a quick look at Uniform Crime Report statistics shows us the following regarding the aforementioned gun control “paradise” cities of the east:


    * DC – 183 Murders (31 per 100,000 residents)
    * New York – 494 Murders (6 per 100,000 residents)
    * Baltimore – 281 Murders (45 per 100,000 residents)
    * Newark – 104 Murders (37 per 100,000 residents)


    ~Google and you will find the same results.
     
  2. hammerklavier

    hammerklavier Member

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    Any numbers for self defense killings, duels, etc?
     
  3. scrat

    scrat Member

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    You should check out horrace bell. he has some pretty good writings. i guess at one time the murder rate in los angeles was the highest rate in the country
     
  4. Tedzilla

    Tedzilla Member

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    Myth of Old West violence.

    If W. Eugene Hollon’s figures can withstand a rigorous fact check they would be valuable in demonstrating that an armed society is a polite society.
     
  5. Boberama

    Boberama member

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    It was all unreported. People got shot with arrows and dumped in the outback. Of course there weren't many recorded homicides. Would people go searching for a body dumped in the middle of a forest 100 miles away? No.

    Thats my $0.02.

    After the fur traders came, the violence lessened with the introduction of firearms.
     
  6. scaatylobo

    scaatylobo Member

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    BUT,there were a great deal less than the 300 MILLION plus than we have now.

    That has to be figured in too.
     
  7. wishin

    wishin Member

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    Thanks for sharing. That's also some good info to have when our anti-gun acquaintances bring up that more guns and less regulation brings more gun related deaths.
     
  8. MrOldLude

    MrOldLude Member

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    Yep. This is what happens when people substitute western-films in place of actual historical references.
     
  9. svtruth

    svtruth Member

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    I always thought guns were actually pretty rare in the old west. Most people were subsistence farmers or ranchers. Ammo was prolly too expensive to practice much.
    And, no, I have no citations to back up my opinions.
     
  10. md2lgyk

    md2lgyk Member

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    Handguns might've been rare, but I'm sure every farmer had at least a shotgun. Probably a rifle too, since many hunted for their food.
     
  11. eye5600

    eye5600 Member

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    The way I heard it, the gunfight at the OK corral was all about gun control.
     
  12. W.E.G.

    W.E.G. Member

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    You mean Gunsmoke wasn't real?

    [​IMG]
     
  13. TexasBill

    TexasBill Member

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    The "Old West" as most people perceive it is almost entirely the product of Hollywood and TV westerns. Showdowns in the latter part of the 19th Century were rare; dueling had been outlawed in the U.S. for years.

    A lot of men had weapons, including various revolvers, left over from service in the Civil War. But from all the photos I have seen from that period, weapons were seldom carried in day-to-day life unless your occupation required one for some reason (hunting, Indians, etc.).

    Actually, a lot of towns prohibited the carrying of firearms and it was illegal to carry a handgun in the entire state of Texas after 1871, a situation that persisted until George Bush became governor of Texas. That didn't mean nobody carried one, though. My great uncles, who lived in Luling, would stick revolvers in their waistbands if they had to go into town on Saturday night. People getting liquored-up was one part of Hollywood lore that had some basis in fact.
     
  14. DFW1911

    DFW1911 Member

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    We also need to remember that what constitutes a homicide in the late 1800's vs. our time are not necessarily equal.

    How many "fair fights" went unreported and / or undocumented because they were, in the eyes of the court / court of public opinion, people exercising their Constitutional Rights?

    Thanks for posting.
     
  15. the iron horse

    the iron horse Member

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    Only four people died at the O.K. Corral, but the story made the headlines in New York City newspapers. I'm trying to imagine the recent homicides in my area making the front page of the New York Times.
     
  16. CoastieShep

    CoastieShep Member

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    How many went unreported because they happened out in the middle of nowhere? Who knows. But yeah, movies are pretty much the exact opposite of real life. To watch a realistic movie that followed all the facts and only the facts would probably be pretty boring.
     
  17. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    It depends what you mean by "the old west" and "guns." If you're talking about the early 19th century fur trade, smooth bore guns were prized and not easy to get west of the Mississippi just because of the sheer logistics involved and the fact that every gun was essentially hand made. Rifles were even more rare. The mountain men who had them were loaded with money from the fur trade.

    If you're talking about the post civil war west, the situation had changed dramatically. Not only was there a wash of millions of surplus military arms but the big makers had learned how to mass produce modern firearms by the million. It's true that fine Colt revolvers were never on everyone's hip as is sometimes portrayed. They were far too expensive for most. But guns, in general, became very easy to get ahold of. Even a poor sod buster could afford a scattergun or beater rifle musket (I've seen some of these smoothed out to eliminate the rifling).
     
  18. Weevil

    Weevil Member

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    I tend to question the accuracy of those "records".


    Something tells me those old west sheriffs and their deputies, or whoever was keeping those "records", weren't quite as meticulous about paperwork as they are nowadays.


    I wonder how many of them could even read and write, literacy was a lot less common back then.
     
  19. Oyeboten

    Oyeboten Member

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    Ther US had a much higher Literacy rate in the mid or mid-latter 1800s, than it does today.


    Literacy was about 100 percent, in the late 1700s.


    The decline in literacy, began with massive imigration for filling low wage factory jobs, then, continued, with federally mandated federally dominated public schooling, as we have now.


    Literacy now is probably the lowest it has ever been since the founding of the United States.


    And credulity, probably, at it's highest.
     
  20. General Geoff

    General Geoff Member

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    [citation needed]

    I would wager that literacy was at 50% or less during the Revolutionary War. Just because the Founding fathers and most people who have been deemed by scholars to be important to the founding of our nation were highly literate, does not mean Joe Average was.


    edit; after a few minutes of searching, the literacy rate in the New England colonies was quite high (above 90%), at least among adult men. Women and slaves, much less so. But this does not really address the literacy rates in the midwest during the mid to late 19th century.



    The technical literacy rate of the United States today is 99%. The functional literacy rate is somewhat lower, however.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2011
  21. d2wing

    d2wing Member

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    Many European settlers did not have guns in there home country and, as been said, could not afford them. But it varied a great deal in times and areas from accounts I have read and heard from relatives. During the Indian uprising here most farmers had a muzzle loading rifle or shotgun in the house but were isolated and unaware. Hundreds were killed by in raids badly outnumbered and outgunned by the Sioux on farms and small settlements. In another case several settlers gathered in a church and shared a single shotgun after an outlaw raid. Most larger towns were well armed and organized enough to ward off attacks.
     
  22. Neverwinter

    Neverwinter Member

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    Population density has a greater effect on violence than guns do. That's one of the main reasons I've avoided living in metropolises.
     
  23. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    Abilene is in Taylor County. By 1890 the city had a population of 3,194; twenty years later the number of residents was 9,204.
    http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hda01

    Pretty hard to get one murder per 100,000. Just are not that many people.
     
  24. Larry E

    Larry E Member

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    In pictures I've seen of the west, especially Montana and Wyoming in the 1880's to early 1900's the cowboys all packed handguns, and some rifles for defense against bears, wolves, and rattlers. Most farmers likely had at least a shotgun and maybe a small caliber rifle for hawks, foxes, coyotes, skunks and other predators on their chickens, and other small livestock.

    Folks in towns and cities likely had guns, but didn't feel a need to carry them all the time because there really wasn't that much violence. Remember the bank robbery in Northfield, MN, where the townspeople armed themselves and had at with the robbers. No FDIC back then, it was THERE money that was being stolen, and they were willing to defend it.

    Before organized law enforcement there were also Committees of Vigilance that decided who they thought needed redemption and saw to it with a rope and convenient tree or other make do scaffold.
     
  25. Apuuli

    Apuuli Member

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    Hence the listing of 5 cities. The 1 murder per 100,000 is for all the cities totalled together.
     
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