Although we all know that cowboys strutted around shooting off their Colt .45s “Peacemakers” all day, the Wild West wasn't so wild that it – and the Stormy South -- couldn't include gun control.
History is annoying. It muddies our legends with facts. Indeed, many local laws in the nineteenth-century prohibited carrying concealed weapons. A Dodge City billboard warned: “The Carrying of Firearms Strictly Prohibited.” Also, that “gun that won the west,” the Peacemaker – was about a tenth as popular as the Harrington & Richardson. And the legendary Gun Fight at the OK Corral was triggered partially by the Tombstone, Arizona, law compelling individuals to check-in their guns when they arrived in town.
History is also delightfully messy. Past nuance undermines partisan certainties. As UCLA Law Professor Adam Winkler writes in Gunfight, “You are certain to see more gunfights in a two-hour movie about the Wild West than you would have seen in a year of the dusty streets of Deadwood, South Dakota” – or most Wild West hot spots. And the South, Winkler adds, “was the region where some of the earliest, most burdensome, gun control laws in American history were first enacted.” At the same time, Southerners and Westerners were often gunslingers. And, as the Harvard Professor Steven Pinker writes in The Better Angels of Our Nature, the South and West were and remain America’s most honor-obsessed, and thereby most violent, regions.