“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Second Amendment
One of my favorite movies is “Tombstone,” about Wyatt Earp and his brothers. In one pivotal scene, the bad guys come into town carrying their guns. Virgil Earp wants to go after them, and Wyatt is arguing with him. Virgil says, very simply, “They’re breaking the law.” When the Earps attempt to enforce the law, the result is the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
This is one time when Hollywood got it right. Often we see westerns where wearing a gun seems to be the norm. In reality, many western towns, including Tombstone, had laws against carrying weapons in town. The specific law the Earps were enforcing was Ordinance No. 9: “To Provide against Carrying of Deadly Weapons,” effective April 19, 1881. “Section 1. It is hereby declared unlawful to carry in the hand or upon the person or otherwise any deadly weapon within the limits of said city of Tombstone, without first obtaining a permit in writing.” This basically meant no one carried a weapon within city limits.
In Dodge City, Kan., an 1878 sign posted on the main street read: “The Carrying of Firearms Strictly Prohibited.” Wichita, Kan., had a similar sign in 1873: “Leave Your Revolvers At Police Headquarters, and Get a Check.” These were rowdy cow towns; town leaders knew armed cowboys were dangerous.
Similar laws were passed in Cheyenne, Wyo., in 1887, and in many other towns. The history-challenged “Guns in every hand” crowd tries to convince us that openly carrying guns is a hallowed American tradition, and anyone who objects is a wild-eyed communist. Open Carry Texas has pushed this idea to its logical extreme, taking guns to restaurants such as Chile’s, Chipotle, and Sonic, frightening families and workers. As far as I know, no one has used “Stand Your Ground” to shoot any of these guys, but it’s only a matter of time. “Hey, he looked at me funny!”
Wayne LaPierre, NRA executive vice-president, famously said, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Reality shows he is wrong. During the Jan. 8, 2011, Tucson, Ariz., shooting, the bad guy was brought down by unarmed bystanders. During the confusion, a good guy with a gun almost shot another good guy. In the Seattle Pacific University shooting in June, the shooter was brought down by pepper spray. There have been many other instances where unarmed bystanders were able to stop a shooter, usually while he was reloading.
In contrast, in Las Vegas this June, two shooters killed two policemen, good guys with guns. They then entered a Walmart store, where one of them killed another good guy with a gun before police finally ended the confrontation. Would more guns have stopped this massacre? Or would more people have been killed? Did the authors of the Constitution really envision untrained people wandering around carrying deadly weapons, just because? They specifically wrote “well regulated Militia.” Is carrying an AK-47 into Target being “well regulated”?
This is America. The same people who say that we are exceptional, that we can do anything, also say we have to give up because we can’t fix this problem. After the April 2, 2014, Fort Hood shooting, Bill O’Reilly of Fox News said, “A portion of any population is going to do violent things, and there is nothing on Earth that we can do to stop those people. Nothing, that is, except give up our freedom.”
After the May 23 Santa Barbara shooting, O’Reilly said, “No matter what society does, there will always be mass murder. Always.” The May 27 headline for The Onion, a satirical newspaper, stated, “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.” What is wrong with us?
Americans have to worry that we or our children will be shot while at the movies, or school, or shopping. Mass slaughter seems to be the price of being free. Idiots can walk into family restaurants with AK-47s slung over their shoulder, and we have to accept it, until, of course, they start shooting and killing us. Then, we have to accept that nothing could have been done anyway. For those who think this is okay, is there no price too high for you? How many innocent people have to die so you can feel free?
Jeanette Strong is an LVN columnist whose column appears every other week. She may be reached at email@example.com.