Who Would Have Guessed, Gun Control Failed in 1881 Also

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Fairfax, VA – -(Ammoland.com)- An article for Smithsonian magazine (Matt Jancer, Gun Control Is as Old as the Old West), reviews the ordinances of Tombstone, Arizona, and other frontier towns in the 1880s, observing that the gun control laws of the time were imposed at the local level and that bearing arms was a “heavily regulated business.”

The notorious Gunfight at the O.K Corral arose, it seems, because “Marshall Virgil Earp, having deputized his brothers Wyatt and Morgan and his pal Doc Holliday, [was] having a gun control problem.”

Tombstone (with a population that hovered around 3,500) had enacted Ordinance No. 9, effective April 1881, to prohibit carrying any deadly weapon within city limits “without first obtaining a permit in writing.” Later that year, lawman Earp’s brothers had charged one Isaac (“Ike”) Clanton with violating the ordinance in the context of escalating animosity between Clanton, the Earps, and Holliday. Clanton’s rifle was seized, and a judge fined him $25 and another $2.50 in court costs. The sheriff later intervened to disarm Clanton’s associates, but after several demands failed to convince them to surrender their firearms. Soon after, the Earp-Holliday group converged on the Clanton-McLaurys, with Wyatt Earp allegedly declaring, “I want your guns.” A contemporary newspaper called what followed “one of the crimson days in the annals of Tombstone, a day when blood flowed as water, and human life was held as a shuttlecock.”

Tombstone of the 1880s is a peculiar model for those who today agitate for greater local authority to restrict or ban firearms.

Ike Clanton survived to file first-degree murder charges against the Earps and Holliday, claiming they had acted with criminal haste in precipitating the confrontation to kill their personal enemies. The court ruling in the preliminary hearing dismissed the charges but determined that Virgil Earp, “as chief of police” who relied on the assistance of his brother and Holliday to arrest and disarm the Clantons and McLaurys, “committed an injudicious and censurable act… and … acted incautiously and without due circumspection;” however, this was not criminally culpable given the state of affairs “incident to a frontier country,” “the supposed prevalence of bad, desperate and reckless men,” and the specific threats that had been made against the Earps.

The ordinance, in this case at least, proved to be almost entirely ineffective. As recounted in the court decision, Sheriff Behan had “demanded of the Clantons and McLaurys that they give up their arms, and … they ‘demurred,’ as he said, and did not do it.”

More significantly, modern jurisprudence on the Second Amendment confirms that, subject to limited exceptions, the right of responsible citizens to carry common firearms beyond the home, “even in populated areas, even without special need, falls within the Amendment’s coverage, indeed within its core.” The ruling, Wrenn v. District of Columbia (2017), arose out of a challenge to the District of Columbia’s concealed carry law, which restricted licenses to applicants who could satisfy a “good reason” requirement, as defined in the law (living or working in a high-crime area, for example, did not qualify). The District justified this scheme by claiming that the Second Amendment did not protect carrying in densely-populated or urban areas like Washington, D.C.

As outlined in briefs filed by the gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety, numerous local governments, like Tombstone, had historically imposed similar bans and restrictions on public carrying in urban areas (“Even in Tombstone, Arizona, people ‘could not lawfully bring their firearms past city limits. In fact, the famed shootout at Tombstone’s O.K. Corral was sparked in part by Wyatt Earp pistol-whipping Tom McLaury for violating Tombstone’s gun control laws…”). Allegedly, these laws “unmistakably show that large swaths of the American public considered public-carry prohibitions to be permissible in populated areas and consonant with the right to bear arms.”

This reliance is misplaced.

A brief filed by historians and legal scholars explains that nineteenth-century prohibitions like the one in Tombstone were “unusual” and imposed “in response to transitory conditions.” Any “supposed distinction between populated and unpopulated areas, offered to justify heavy restrictions on carrying in the District, is not supported by the existence of handgun carry bans in a handful of mostly small towns in the Wild West, when nearly all major cities had no such laws.”

The United States Supreme Court, in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago, had previously discounted arguments that local government handgun bans could be sustained due to violent crime rates in some cities and because of the scope of the laws was limited to an urban area. Such local experimentation with firearm regulations could not come at the cost of inroads on fundamental constitutional rights.

Faced with yet another attempt to impose what was essentially a local ban, the court in Wrenn condemned the District’s “good reason” law as incompatible with Second Amendment protections. The Amendment is “not hemmed in by longstanding bans on carrying in densely populated areas. Its protections today don’t give out inside the Beltway.”

Much has changed since Tombstone’s heyday as a saloon-intensive, gambling boomtown and that “crimson day” at the O.K. Corral. Virgil Earp’s successors in law enforcement, the sheriffs, and lawmen of the western states, now agree that restrictive gun carry laws do nothing to stem criminal violence while depriving law-abiding citizens of their rights to self-defense.

“[I]nstead of leading to a ‘Wild West’ atmosphere or blood running in the streets, licensed concealed carry by law-abiding citizens helps reduce crime, and assists police officers.”


Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the “lobbying” arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Visit: www.nra.org

National Rifle Association Institute For Legislative Action (NRA-ILA)

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Rob J

“They did it in the past!” is not a valid reason.

Unconstitutional “laws” are still unconstitutional no matter how much prior precedence has been set.


Politicians extort our civil rights ordered by those who paid for the campaign funds to help get them elected. They become like hamsters on a wheel endlessly running the same path of those that are now in control of their political future. When they remove our abilities to do something today this is now called a mandate. This is done so those in power gain total control over those citizens rights. The anti gun agenda continues as those that want total control over the public fear a armed citizen. They will always invent new issues to try to remove our… Read more »


Once upon a time not very long ago, a dude named Adolf wrote in his book, “Mein Kamfe” (I am paraphrasing here). “A government which allows their peasants to remain armed will be difficult to enslave”.


I enjoyed this article and the posts that followed.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” – George Santayana.


I learned that in history class in the 7th grade. You wouldn’t believe what they teach in history classes now days, especially in OreGONE.

Example. My great niece that has one more you to graduate college and become a teacher says. Washington crossed the Delaware, to kill the Indians. The Japanese attacked America and started the Japanese American war, not WWII. Pearl Harbor is somewhere in Europe. Who started WWII, answer ???????? crickets!!!!!

God help us.



The twisted school system, SUGAR COATED and NOT TAUGHT WHAT HISTORY WAS!!!!!!!!


They were fighting over Hondas.


That was until the Yamaha Vmax came along. lol

Alan in NH

Not much has changed since this article was first published.


a first rate idiot is president




“As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” — H. L. Mencken

Wild Bill

So … the presidency is a sliding scale from elitist on one end to moron on the other end. That is the most dismal thought that I have come across today.


There is nothing to suggest that an elitist cannot also be a moron, and plenty of evidence to demonstrate that the two are often linked together – the current administration being the poster boy and girl for the claim. The two attributes are in no way mutually exclusive.


If anyone will read a Wyatt Earp biography, they will find that what happened at the OK Corral had nothing to do with gun control. Wyatt Earp was attempting to arrest Clanton for the murder of his brother. Earp told Clanton to surrender his guns (possibly) so he could take him into custody. Earp did end up hunting down or killing all the men associated with his brother’s murder. About Wichita, KS having a gun control ordinance is another silly fantasy of gun control advocates today who are trying to rewrite history. Wichita, KS was a depot for cattle shipment… Read more »


Gee, your comment seems to follow all the versions I have seen of the OK corral and there have been many movies about it and they are all the same.

Excellent response.


John Ford had talked with Wyatt before making the movie, My Darling Clementine. Supposedly the most accurate of the flicks.


Didn’t she say she read HIS biography? Wonder if he would have lied and made shit up just like they do these days. Naaaaa…he was a saint! Saint Earp. Some Earps did need to be down in Texas a few days ago though.

Wild Bill

Sometimes people get dragged down to the level of the bad around them.


Ignorance of history is rampant in this country because it isn’t “taught” in the public cisterns. AKA schools. Or what they do teach is convoluted BS. Like that the war for Southern Independence was over slavery. Yeah, right.


BOY HOW TRUE, what history that is taught is altered only to the LEFT’S mind thoughts, and BLM about all of the Statues from General’s from the South, it was a time in our History, when our country almost failed because there were two different views, thus the Civil War, it has taken many years to still trying to correct Mind Set on Segregation, but it also takes other races not just the people of color!


which brother? movies show Morgan dying after OKC

Green Mtn. Boy

The shootout at the OK corral was a faction fight,one still playing out today Democrats vs Republicans.The Clanton faction were Democrat and the Earp faction Republican . Gun/People control didn’t work better in the 1880’s than it does today.

Tactical IT

Actually, I see this the other way. The Earp’s were calling for and attempting to enforce gun control (Democrat) while the Clanton’s were attempting to express their freedom to bear arms (Republican). Just saying.

Wild Bil

@TI, Except that the Earps were repubs and the Clantons were dems. And except that the repub party of yesterday is not today’s repub party, and yesterday’s dem party is not the communist party in incognito calling themselves dems, of today.


The dems are now marxist.


Most everyone is Marxist by proxy and don’t even realize it. https://bornagainclassics.com/Books/TenPlanksoftheCommunistManifesto-American-Style.shtml

Green Mtn. Boy

That’s the way it would work out today however the fact of their party affiliations is historical fact.
John Clum editor and publisher of the Tombstone Epitaph was a meticulous record keeper and printed much material,including work on Earp post OK coral.


“When the legend becomes fact, print the legend”


A more accurate analogy than Green Mtn.Boy’s


You both make sense depending on which side of the fence you stand. I can see it both ways. Either way, it was a control issue.


The NRA was established in 1871 by the newly formed REPUBLICAN party in response to the disarming of freed slaves. It is easier to LYNCH an UNARMED person than an ARMED PERSON. You got your analogy ass backwards. Here is example of having a little historical knowledge. Very little knowledge.

Green Mtn. Boy

@ ricarrdo Speaking of a lack of historical facts,along with credits. Dismayed by the lack of marksmanship shown by their troops, Union veterans Col. William C. Church and Gen. George Wingate formed the National Rifle Association in 1871. The primary goal of the association would be to “promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis,” according to a magazine editorial written by Church. After being granted a charter by the state of New York on November 17, 1871, the NRA was founded. Civil War Gen. Ambrose Burnside, who was also the former governor of Rhode Island and a U.S.… Read more »


One of the purposes of the NRA was to train the state Militias. Seems they dropped the ball there in 1903 when they didn’t make a major effort to stop the Dick Act.


Maybe because NRA’s always been run by people called Dick.

Last edited 7 months ago by Russn8r

Downvoters are pretend bubble boy prisses.

Captain America

That’s really devilcrats vs freedoms, veterans, ,patriots , and America not just republicans. They are after disarmament as part of a grand socialist control plan, bent on destroying freedoms in America first ,then America itself for our enemies! Devilrats are not Americans anymore! They have willingly joined our enemies and are working for them to help destroy America!! Communists under a new name to DECiEVE The gullible and moochers.but communists just the same !


Marxist all.

kitchawan kid

As I understand it that law started the popularity of the Colt pocket model (and others) that could be carried concealed.

Green Mtn. Boy

@ kitchawan kid

The original Colt pocket model was produced prior to the Earp’s hitting Tombstone chronologically however small very concealable pocket guns started with the Derringer and exploded production of many others,from 22 to 41 caliber and almost anything in between.


Shame NRA didn’t act, when it still had clout, to pre-empt “gun free” zones in Texas at the state level. Those kids would still be alive.

LaPierre & Hammer do love their “gun free” zones, don’t they?

Last edited 7 months ago by Russn8r

I don’t know. Do they really?


Effectively yes. LaPew backed the original law, testified for it in congress after Columbine (~”we think zero tolerance gun free school zones are reasonable”). All NRA-backed state “carry” laws are infested with “gun free” zones, including Marion’s Florida, bans carry in liquor-serving businesses: Orlando Pulse Nightclub. NRA’s HQ state: Virginia Tech. NRA sabotaged VCDL’s efforts to remove them. They were eventually partially removed, the “restaurant ban” was lifted. NRA simply refuses to take full advantage of “pro-gun” legislative majorities when it has them. When Texas passed Con “Carry”, they kept the patchwork quilt of “gun free” zones: El Paso, Uvalde.

Last edited 7 months ago by Russn8r
Wild Bill

Trump on Gun Control.  NY Times Reporter Michael C. Bender Sat, May 28, 2022, 9:33 AM  Feb. 28, 2018. (Tom Brenner/The New York Times) One of the most extraordinary moments of Donald Trump’s presidency was an hour long meeting with U.S. senators in the aftermath of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in which he forcefully argued for a litany of gun safety measures that the National Rifle Association had long opposed. Trump’s support for gun control measures — which he unrolled on live television from the White House on Feb. 28, 2018 — astonished lawmakers from both parties. But… Read more »


Can you tell me how arms control worked/didn’t in ancient Rome? I mean was there arms control A.D. 1-100?


The government is only thinking of itself. They have become so Complacement and are fixed on how their career in politics is going. But the constitution was put in place to help the American citizens so congress and the government would not overstep their boundary’s what is the point of having the constitution if the government is not going to respect it and follow it? yes is open to interoperation. But instead of punishing the law abiding citizen starting taking the rights away of those who are breaking the law ( criminals ). Criminals these days have more rights than… Read more »


Why was it so difficult back then and why is it so difficult today to understand four simple words that everyone with a 1st grade education should know? SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED. Really? The incident at the OK Corral will be duplicated MILLIONS of times in the US except it probably won’t go as well for “law enforcement” as that confrontation supposedly did if they try to take away our semi automatic defense rifles. Remember this folks…AR10 trumps AR15. So keep poking the killer bee hive you morons.

Wild Bill

To put it another way, how did it become so easy to ignore the Constitution?


Bill – I just had an epiphany of sorts – the legal authorities of the day didn’t think that 10 Commandments were enough and apparently the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution weren’t either. Seems to me that there have always been bureaucrats meddling with simple to understand laws.

Wild Bill

Yes, since the first bureaucrat.


Because too many fools make excuses for people with badges who crap all over it.

Wild Bill

People with badges do not make statutes or intentionally rule against the constitution from the bench.


Doesn’t shot placement factor ?


Very interesting. I did not know such details. Once I was assigned to write an essay on the topic of handling weapons. I decided to check over here for all the sample essays that students usually write. Thanks to this knowledge, I was able to clearly reveal the topic and learned a lot of interesting things for myself.

Last edited 7 months ago by JeffThorsen777