Monday, March 18, 2013

Gun Control in the Wild West--Nancy J. Farrier



 What comes to mind when you think about the Wild West during the 1800’s? Cowboys racing through town on galloping horses, shooting their guns and whooping, ready to have some fun? Men with six-shooters strapped to their hips? Tumbleweeds blowing down the deserted main street while two men face off, hands hovering over their holstered pistols? You can almost hear the music as the tension builds. Women grab their children and run for cover. Someone runs for the Sheriff. Just another day in the wild west. But, is this an accurate portrayal?

As I was doing some research, I was surprised to note that the Old West of the 1800’s had some very strict gun laws. For instance, Dodge City posted a sign for people to see as they entered town warning everyone to turn in their guns at the Sheriff’s office for the duration of their stay. This rule was strictly enforced and they could pick up their weapons on the way out of town. Every cowboy had to surrender his guns, or surrender his money for a fine.

Another town had a sign on two pine boards that stated, “All persons are hereby forbidden the carrying of firearms or other dangerous weapons within the city limits under penalty of fine and imprisonment. By Order of the Mayor.” From what I’ve read many towns appreciated the increase revenue from the fines.

In April of 1881, Tombstone, Arizona put in an ordinance prohibiting the carrying of deadly weapons. This prompted the famed shootout involving the Earps and Doc Holliday when the Clantons and their party refused to follow the ordinance and surrender their weapons.Over the years, the event has taken on a life of its own, but the problem began with a refusal to adhere to the law.

The Wild West grew as more men brought their wives and families. Towns wanted to attract more people and men shooting off guns at all hours didn’t appeal to those who wanted to settle down and live in peace. Thus many places in the Old West began to enforce new ordinances that prohibited carrying weapons, concealed, or in the open. Men wanted their wives and children to be able to go to school, or the mercantile in safety, yet they needed guns to hunt for food, or for protection from wild animals or other critters that might harm them.

The days of riders galloping through, shooting and whooping it up on a Friday evening were coming to an end. Tense stand offs in the main street, where one man called out another for some offense, were forbidden, which gave time for the heated tempers to cool down.

An interesting note is that people were divided about the issue of gun control in the 1800’s. I imagine there were some of the same fears back then that people have today on both sides of the debate. I am fascinated to learn that people haven’t changed all that much even though our way of life is so different.

I wonder if the excitement of the Wild West, enhanced in dime store novels and shows featuring heroic people like Kit Carson, William Cody and Bill Hickok, were as unrealistic as some of the action stories and movies of today. What do you think?


Coming July 2013
This month I am giving away a large tote bag and two books, one contemporary and one historical. Don’t forget to leave a comment to enter the giveaway and to have another chance for the end-of-the-month drawing for a Kindle.

58 comments:

  1. I think the dime novels and shows would have been very much exaggerated to entice people to the West and give more romantic feel. I love how some towns had the gun ban, makes a lot of sense and I can see how issues of the past are still the same today.
    Thanks for the info.

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    1. Thanks for the comments, Jenny. We do love those larger than life stories.

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  2. It's been a long time since I've read anything about the Wild West. This was another great post.

    bcrug(at)myfairpoint(dot)net

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  3. Love books set in this period!!!

    Karen Schulz
    aregeetee5162 at yahoo dot com

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  4. Great post, Nancy. I love watching old westerns on TV. They did make the old west look romantic and inviting. I have to laugh at some of the things they do since I've done research for my own novels set in Texas and Oklahoma. The lives of men like Nancy mentioned weren't all as heroic or fascinating as stories have made them out to be. Still, those stories take us to a different time and place and allow us to escape to the days of horses and wagon trains.

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    1. Thanks, Martha. Yes, some westerns have laughable parts, but they are fun. :)

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  5. Issues & people are the same, I think how we choose to deal with things is the difference. How boring reading would be if things weren't embellished a wee bit. Reading is an escape for me and I love reading books about the Wild West. I'm from a river town in Ark. that boasts of Hanging Judge Parker's Courtroom. Fascinating stories..You knew if you broke the law in Fort Smith, Judge Parker had no mercy. Thanks for the interesting blog post and the opportunity to win...Linda
    dmcfarl101(at)juno(dot)com

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    1. Great comments, Linda. I agree that we have to make choices on how we deal with things, and, yes, I love reading that is embellished. I love Christian fiction, because along with the embellishment is a spiritual truth to contemplate.

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  6. Great post today Nancy, I love reading about the old west and used to watch the westerns while growing up like Gunsmoke...Guns are definately an issue right now after so many shootings everywhere. I don't think the gun is the problem, I believe that People are. Ones that don't have strong character and morals in their background. schools are changing many things, even churches accept a lot. We need to stand by lessons learned from the Bible and teach our children right from wrong early...
    Off my soapbox
    Paula O(kyflo130@yahoo.com)

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    1. Ah, yes, I remember Gunsmoke and Bonanaza. I loved the horses more than the actors. lol Biblical values are a must. Thank you for your comments.

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  7. Wow! I had no clue that rules about carrying a gun were so strict. TV and books make it seem completely different. Thanks so much for having the giveaway.

    Rose
    harnessrose(at)yahoo(dot)com

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    1. Thank you, Rose. I found learning about the gun laws very interesting.

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  8. I wonder how OUR time period will be romanticized in the future! It's always a good thing to take a look at what truly happened, so we can learn from history. Thanks for the history lesson! :)

    jimmynmatthewsmom [at] netzero [dot] com

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    1. Thanks, Bethany. I just hope people in the future don't consider movies of today as "the way it was." :)

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    2. Oh, goodness! That would be awful!

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  9. I really enjoyed the post. Would love to be entered in your giveaway.

    Katie J.
    johnsonk133[at]yahoo[dot]com

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    1. Thank you, Katie. You are in the drawing.

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  10. Great post Nancy. I knew there were a few places that demanded visitors surrender their guns but had no idea it was so wide spread. And it's interesting to learn that this is what spurred the gunfight at the OK corral

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    1. Thanks, Winnie. Yes, I found the OK corral information very interesting.

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  11. Thank you for the information - I knew about the gun control with the Earp brothers, but I had not idea it was done in other cities. I enjoy that era - not sure why, but there is something about it that I love to read books about that time and watch movies set in that time. I think movies and books like to tell of the good things that happened in different eras and not really express how bad it may have been. I don't think we even totally know the horrors the American Indians endured with the coming of many families and business men to an untouched part of America back then, I don't believe many books spoke of those things - they probably wouldn't have been able to sell a book if they had written the truth about that.
    In today's world I wonder if certain gun shootings are not staged by our government to aid them in removing guns from law-abiding citizens. It is coming, just don't know when. It is not the guns fault - it cannot shoot itself, it is the person behind the gun, but unfortunately these people who are so filled with hate and anger take it out on innocent lives and then all have to pay the price for the bad choices someone else made.

    Thank you for the history lesson, I enjoyed it!

    Blessings,
    Lori
    triplel(at)evertek(dot)net

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    1. Thank you for the comments, Lori. I love this era too, but I agree we don't fully understand the hardships people endures.













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  12. Thanks for another lesson in history! I had heard of the gun control in various towns of yesteryear, but would agree with other comments that the stories were romanticized. However, they probably would not have sold if they had not been embellished, as the truth can sometimes be quite boring....lol.

    bettimace(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Thanks, Betz. I agree. I'm not sure I want to read a realistic western with all the difficulties and no romanticizing. :)

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  13. Kay_M is the winner of yesterday's 1/2 lb coffee drawing! :) Congrats Kay!!!

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  14. Well, thanks for squelching my imagination, Nancy....just kidding. I find this all so fascinating...there may not have been all of those 'shoot outs', but it sure makes for great books and movies. Haha

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    1. I agree with you. I love those books and movies, but the facts are fascinating too.

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  15. I have been to Dodge City, KS and Boot Hill. I was very disappointed in both. Dodge City was very commercial and Boot Hill was not like I imagined it to be.
    Thanks for entering me in the giveaway.
    Janet E.
    von1janet(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Janet, I've never been to Dodge City, KS, but I've been to Tombstone, AZ. I couldn't believe how small the area of the "OK Corral" shootout was. Those guys could have thrown rocks at one another. lol

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  16. It is interesting to think how we have progressed and how we have stayed the same.

    Thanks for the giveaway

    truckredford (at(gmail)dot) com

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    1. I agree, Eliza. Thank you for your comments.

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  17. This was a very interesting post Nancy. I am a fan of western Movies and books. I would like to enter the contest.
    Maxie mac262(at)me(dot)com

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  18. Very interesting, Nancy. Thank you for doing the research on this part of our American History, and thank you for sharing your knowledge with us.

    Jan. janstitches@yahoo.com

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    1. Thanks for the comments, Jan. I love doing the research.

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  19. Not much for the original dime novels, but this world would be a sadder place without Roy Rogers, John Wayne, Louis L'Amour, and Zane Grey.

    Many people these days are quite surprised at the laws and sheer amount of law-abiding citizens the west really did have. I am from Montana where we are famous for the vigilantes, a few guys that only rode for a short time, not exactly enough to represent us the way they do even today.

    Blessings!
    Jasmine A. (in Montana)

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    1. Hi Jasmine, I loved Louie L'Amour and Zane Grey. I would read their books over and over. Montana does have quite the reputation, especially in the Old West. You live in a beautiful State. Thanks for the comments.

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  20. I think that probably the truth lies in the proportion of gun fights. I know that we see alot of old movies and read books with a good number of gun fights, but in the overall picture of the west, exactly how often did that happen? It's just like today. There are comparatively few schools that have been assaulted and children and teachers killed, but it is big and horrifying to us all. I can see that future writers might be centering many stories on these events, so it might appear in a hundred or hundred and 50 years that school shootings were commonplace. Just a thought.

    Thank you, Jaime, for the win of the coffee! My family will enjoy it!
    may_dayzee (at) yahoo (dot) com

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    1. Hi Kay, how fun that you won Jaime's coffee.

      I agree that gunfights in the Old West weren't every day occurrences. Just the fact that people had to check their guns at the Sheriff's office says they had more gunfights than they wanted. I don't know that they weren't commonplace though.

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  21. Thank you for the historically correct version of Tombstone! :) I love wild west history, thank you for an intersting post.
    farmygirl at hotmail dot com

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    1. Thank you, Sue. I love wild west history too.

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  22. Very interesting post, Nancy. It does make you wonder as the western movies we see and just how realistic they are.

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  23. I would love to win this book, thank you for the chance.

    wfnren(at)aol(dot)com

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  24. I'm sure some were probably unrealistic. I bet some of the people who wrote them really didn't know what they were talking about or exaggerated purposely. shopgirl152nykiki(at)yahoo(dot)com

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    1. Interesting thought, Veronica. You could be right.

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  25. I love the old west and reading about it. I have been to Old Tucson and Tombstone and learn something new every time I go. Thanks for enlightenment, and thanks for the chance to win in a giveaway. Love reading and love learning!

    Glenda

    gjac444 (at) gmail (dot) com

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    1. Hi Glenda, I've been to Old Tucson a few times. Those places are a lot of fun to visit.

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  26. Very interesting post today. Thank you.

    I imagine that the dime novels were slightly exaggerated in order to sell them and as Jenny said at the top of the comments, to entice people to move west.

    Wow! I'd say the gunfight at the ok corral was exaggerated.

    Thank you for the information.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

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  27. I know Marshal Matt Dillon was a radio/TV made-up person, but he had a few bad guys "get out of Dodge"
    in the old serial westerns, the cowboys would go around the same "rock" several times in the shoot-outs
    Thanks for this fun post. Kathleen ~ Lane Hill House
    I would love to have the Immigrant Brides Collection since I am second generation on my maternal grandmother's side ~ she came with her family from Norway when she was 16.
    lanehillhouse[at]centurylink[dot]net

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  28. Good evening, Ms. Farrier,

    I've enjoyed reading Westerns for most of my life, especially frontier or settler stories, as much as horse dramas of a lot of varieties! There is always a certain element of creative liberty taken I think, when each writer decides how much fact and truth learnt in research to include into their stories, so I am sure that even with the subject of the Old West, it could either have been better than originally known to us, this many generations lateron, OR it was a balance of all the good and bad we could imagine! I think what was encouraging to read tonight is that the towns themselves wanted to improve their lives and live a life in peace. I can imagine that took a lot of courage back then, and how nice to read that they made that achievement!

    Like the woman ahead of me, {Lane}, I am a second generation as well, as my grandmother came from Scotland! :) I too, would be keen to win the Brides Collection, but as its due in July, I think that's a bit ahead of us!? Today's giveaway is for one western historical, one contemparary, & a tote bag, right!? I'll earmark the Brides title to look for it come Summer, but I'd be thrilled to *win!* these two books + tote! I'd use the bag to carry my yarn around in, as I'm forever running out of space for carting my projects around! And, the books would mark a nice introduction to your writings!!

    inkand-blogaways(at)usa.net
    //Florida

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  29. Very interesting - I have to admit that, yes, a lot of gun shoot-outs were what I pictured as representative of the west. Had never read anything previously re: gun laws in the towns. Thanks for the opportunity to win the gift pack!

    bonnieroof60@yahoo.com

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  30. I love anything to do with the wild west! :) I never realized that they had so many rules/laws about guns... Great post!
    Lisa
    deiselbuffs@yahoo.ca

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  31. Lady DragonKeeperMarch 19, 2013 at 3:33 AM

    Interesting --you learn something new everyday. =) I'd imagine there were a lot of fictionalized accounts of the Wild West that are similar to military suspense novels today --plausible events, but not necessarily real life.

    jafuchi7[at]hawaii[dot]edu

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  32. I am going to be looking for this book. I love books about immigrants. I also wanted to say I enjoyed your post and sorry I did not comment yesterday as it was a crazy day.

    griperang at embarqmail dot com

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  33. The winner of the drawing is Jan from janstiches. Congratulations, Jan!

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