By Dennis Stilson
USA --(Ammoland.com)- Throughout time society has been forced to endure what the majority of us consider to be the most horrific act that can be committed by any person, the taking of a life.
Murder for personal gain, anger, revenge, or any other negative emotional reason goes against our moral grain, at least for most human beings.
But on the other hand, what about self defense, protecting love ones or others who are in danger and in times of war? These types of incidents seem to warrant the taking of a life and rightfully so.
The killing subject has been, is now and will likely always be the subject of paramount confusion, justification and oddly enough entertainment.
Looking back at a few of those who were well known for their acts of murder does bring up some interesting comparisons and the way society changes their views of those individuals, their crimes, and the weapons used.
Let’s start with Jesse Woodson James better know as “Jesse James.”
Born – September 5, 1847 – Died – April 3, 1882. He lived 35 years.
Jesse was born in Missouri to Robert and Zerelda James who were farmers and slave owners. Jesse James had an older brother named Frank who left his family to fight in the civil war while Jesse was too young to accompany him and had to stay at home.
Without getting lost in the many versions of the James gang stories of fact and fiction lets just say this, Jesse James has been credited with killing 16 people including another 180 killings he was involved with also counting those killed while riding with “Bloody Bill Quantrill.” The weapon of choice at this time was the 1851 Navy Colt revolver .36 caliber. This pistol was the first to have a revolving cylinder which held six shots that could be fired in rapid succession. By the end of his short lived career of crime he was packing a Colt .45 Peacemaker which combined the gunpowder , bullet, and percussion cap into a single cartridge making it much easier and quicker to load then fire. Certainly an intimidating force to be reckoned with for most.
Bob Ford was one of the trusted members and friends of Jesse’s gang and on April 3, 1882 he shot Jesse in the back of the head while visiting at his home. Ford assassinated Jesse for a $10,000.00 reward. With friends such as this who needs enemies? One of the pistols that is said to be the gun that killed Jesse James sold for $350,000. 00 on November 12, 2003. It is a Smith & Wesson .44 caliber revolver.
Jesse was a known outlaw, bank and train robber, and murderer. Dime novels were being sold glorifying this disgusting behavior and championing this poor excuse of a human being even while he was still alive. Stories glamorizing killings and robberies ran rampant selling thousands of books and newspapers.
In 1939 Tyrone Power starred as Jesse James in “The Legend of Jesse James.” This was the first of many movies with some of the most well known actors of all time such as Robert Wagner, Robert Duvall, Rob Lowe and Brad Pitt, just to list a few. These movies which starred handsome , dashing stars did not portray them as desperate vicious killers but as men with a cause. They were caught in helpless dangerous and emotional situations and did only what had to be done to survive. The crowds exit the theater feeling sympathy and support for their new found hero’s.
Now lets take a look at William Henry McCarty Jr. alias “Billy the Kid”.”
Born – November 23, 1859 – Died – July 14, 1881. He lived 23 years.
Billy was born in New York City with little else known for certain. It is said that he was orphaned young and turn to petty theft. Later he moved out
West became involved with a murderous gang then stole horses and cattle to survive until he was killed. He has been credited with killing anywhere from 4 to 26 people. Again just as the stories of Jesse James were exaggerated and fabricated their reputations were created and glorified.
Billy is said to have preferred multiple firearms such as the Colt single action army model 1873 revolver 45 long caliber and the Colt double action revolver .41 caliber while the rifle he frequently used was a Winchester model 1873 44-40 caliber lever action rifle. At present and so far as I have searched I can find no guns of any certainty that may have belonged to Billy the Kid.
But the story remains the same with more big stars portraying Billy the Kid such as Kris Kristofferson , Paul Newman,Val Kilmer, Robert Conrad, Emilio Estevez, and many more all softening and stealing the hearts of those who watched these semi-fictitious and successful movies. Including myself while growing up being unable to watch enough westerns with guns a blazing to ever satisfy my need for action entertainment.
Let’s move the clock forward about 50 years and take a brief look at Bonnie Parker
Born – October 1, 1910 – Died May 23, 1934. She lived 23 years. Clyde Barrow – Born March 24, 1909 – Died May 23, 1934. He lived 25 years.
Alias “Bonnie and Clyde.” This pair of murderers were responsible for 13 killings. In 1967 a hit movie titled “Bonnie and Clyde’ starred Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty giving both the killers and actors a memorable place in history.
On September 30, 2012 Bonnie’s snub nose .38 sold for $268,000.00 and Clyde’s Colt Model 1911 .45-caliber automatic sold for $240,000.00.
These criminals turned heroes were nothing more than plagues of society destroying individuals and families hopes and dreams because they were unwilling to work for what they wanted .
Now we all watch these characters in movies theaters on television, videos and we read about them in books, newspapers and on the internet.
I am as guilty as anyone for enjoying them. All of these types of entertainment are for gain and that is fact of life but this does provide jobs for many.
To continue, On November 22, 1963 President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Lee Harvey Oswald was charged with the murder. The rifle said to be used by Oswald was an Italian Mannlicher / Carcano bolt action 6.5 caliber and is still located in the National Archives. Two days later, November 24,1963, Jack Ruby assassinated Oswald. The .38 caliber Colt Cobra revolver that killed Oswald was publicized as having an offer of $750,000.00 in 2008 at a Las Vegas auction.
June 6, 1968 Senator Robert R. Kennedy, brother of President John F. Kennedy was said to be assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan using a Iver Johnson Cadet revolver .22 caliber. Los Angeles police department investigated this murder and after the trial when asked where the murder weapon was they responded by saying “it has been lost, we have no record.” I wonder if I could use that excuse with the IRS?
Moving ahead a few more years Gary Mark Gilmore – Born – December 4, 1940 – Died – January 17,1977. On July 19, 1976 Gilmore robbed and murdered a service station attendant. The following day, July 20, 1976, Gilmore robbed and murdered a motel manager. This is relatively few killings in comparison to the killers previously discussed, but this particular case and murder weapon had historical and legal significance unmatched by any other murders in American history.
Gilmore chose and fought to be executed by firing squad and was the first to be executed after reinstatement of the death penalty. there had been no executions in all of America for over a decade. This case was heard around the world. Gilmore used a Browning Challenger II semi-automatic .22 pistol for both robberies and murders. In 2008 an offer of $780,000.00 was bid at auction but did not reach the minimum required.
A book about this case titled “The Executioners Song” won the Pulitzer Prize. A movie by the same title starred Tommy Lee Jones winning him an Emmy. But the role played by Tommy Lee Jones was much more factual than the Jesse or Billy movies mentioned. His believable performance left people in fear and disgust.
This is just a of few of the most prominent cases and the valuable collectible firearms in American history. Firearms used in most murder cases are no longer returned and are said to be destroyed. Who knows for sure where they may end up?
Not all collectible and extremely valuable guns were used to kill. One such firearm will likely never be sold but can be viewed at the Cody Firearms museum in Wyoming. This custom built Winchester model 94 30-30 caliber rifle was designed for former President Ronald Reagan . It showcases gold inlays depicting achievements of his life such as; a football which reflects his days as a player at Eureka College; an antique microphone representing his time as a sportscaster; the famous drama masks depicting his career as an actor; and a Screen Actors’ Guild logo representing his presidency of that organization. Also the seal of California and the Presidential Seal of the United States. The final inlay is a portrait of Ronald Reagan. President Reagan left this rifle to his chauffeur and it was donated by his family to the museum. This can be a very good way to not only get the write off on your taxes as a charitable donation but also guarantees you a respectable place in history for others to view.
Warren Newman – Curator of the Cody Firearms Museum
Dennis Stilson holding former President Reagan’s rifle.
Remember Teddy or President Theodore Roosevelt ? He went on an African Safari using a Holland-& Holland Royal double rifle in .500/.450 caliber and in 1994 it was sold at auction for a $500,000.00.
These types of collectibles are very rare , hard to document and are becoming fewer and much more valuable as time goes on. Many view these types of firearms as relics and curios of significant historical value, I agree. This is a part of free enterprise and the American way of life that should be left to individual choice. These relic firearms are not for everyone and most can’t afford them anyway. If you don’t like them do not participate, the same as with any firearms but do not criticize those who do. I’m sure others do not agree with some of the things that you do, remember the golden rule?
We are now faced with those who are trying to persuade us that political correctness should prevail over moral correctness. Telling us what they want is right and what we want and have believed for years is wrong. Regardless of where it is written. Just look at the television shows and movies today but remember they do not represent the opinions or lifestyles of many.
Tragedies of all kinds have always existed and unfortunately will never cease no matter how many laws are written. Those who want firearms, collectible or otherwise and are not criminals should have that right. All we can do is learn to protect ourselves and others to the best of our ability, pay attention to what our leaders are saying and doing and try to do what is right. The media for the most part tells us what they want us to think and believe. Therefore many in society forget the truth and are brainwashed or entertainment washed into forgiveness and forgetfulness of a sort. So accept it or do something about it.
Lastly I say, enjoy your firearms of all kinds safely. But most of all do your best to choose the right movie and enjoy your popcorn.
For more details about this story see the website at www.gilmoregun.com