If Only We Had the Old West’s Gun Laws

The Texas Senate has approved “Open Carry” in Texas, while a bill allowing college students to carry their weapons is likely to get a vote later today.

If feels like the inmates are running the asylum. Texas has taken a huge step backwards in time. Some have said we’re going back to the laws of the Old West. If only that were true. Because the truly insane part of both these bills is:

— The Old West had stricter gun laws than Texas will now have, and
— Texas already proved college students don’t need to carry.

Let’s Just Go Back to the Old West
The advocates of Open Carry –who seem mostly like suburban White men who feel carrying a gun in Chipotle somehow proves their manhood– believe they are going back to some “pure” time in the Old West. If only that were so. Because the truth is: The Old West didn’t allow Open Carry!!

Adam Winkler, professor of law at UCLA, has researched this extensively. In a Huffington Post piece from several years ago, he writes:

“Frontier towns — places like Tombstone, Deadwood, and Dodge — actually had the most restrictive gun control laws in the nation…
When you entered a frontier town, you were legally required to leave your guns at the stables on the outskirts of town or drop them off with the sheriff, who would give you a token in exchange. You checked your guns then like you’d check your overcoat today at a Boston restaurant in winter. Visitors were welcome, but their guns were not…
While people were allowed to have guns at home for self-protection, frontier towns usually barred anyone but law enforcement from carrying guns in public”

8642866729_fda52d0509The first laws passed in Dodge City…literally the first law ever on the books?

Gun control.

A law that read, in part:

“any person or persons found carrying concealed weapons in the city of Dodge or violating the laws of the State shall be dealt with according to law.”

The Wild West had stricter gun control than we have today!!

It’s enough to make your head explode.

And if your head hasn’t yet exploded, consider the issue of allowing students to carry weapons on college campuses. Presumably, it’s to help Texas avoid a situation like Virginia Tech. And, of course, everybody wants to avoid Virginia Tech.

Texas Has Already Proven: College Students Don’t Need Guns
In 2011, shortly after the shooting at Virginia Tech, a student with a gun entered the UT Campus. Immediately, the pre-planned response of law enforcement went into effect. A mass text message put the campus on lock-down. UT Police, Austin Police, and DPS Troopers all played important and synchronized roles in securing the campus: because they had planned together for just this kind of emergency.

Although the young man fired eleven shots on campus that day,  planning by the University and law enforcement helped assure that no lives were lost.

In other words, Texas proved that the way to keep students safe is by the planning and cooperation of law enforcement, not Steve Dallas and Kitzi carrying handguns in their backpacks. (Too young to get this last reference? click here)

We Will Learn the Lesson of The OK Corral Once Again
As Professor Winkler points out, frontier towns adopted gun control because they knew it was the only way to attract businesses and families.

“Residents wanted limits on guns in public because they wanted to attract businesspeople and civilized folk. What prospective storeowner was going to move to Deadwood if he was likely to be robbed when he brought his daily earnings to the bank?”

Yesterday, Senator John Whitmire boldly spoke against the Open Carry bill, suggesting that eventually some nut will bring a gun into the Capitol and start shooting. He’s absolutely right: There are a lot of crazy people out there. They knew this, back in the days of the Old West. That’s why they limited people’s rights to bear arms in all places and in all times.

We have forgotten this truth, and that real history. Collectively, we’ve fallen under the sway of a pseudo-libertarian idea that no gun control is ever acceptable; an idea the the frontier Cowboys, the role model for modern Open Carry fans, would have seen as insanity.

And it is. It’s insanity, pure and simple. The inmates are running the asylum.

And make no mistake. There will be a human cost. People will die.

And when they do, the blood will be on the hands of our Texas Legislature, and those who have forgotten the true history of the Old West.

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He has been Senior Pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas since 2001. During his tenure, church membership has grown almost 30 percent, and a completely new church facility (sanctuary and education building) has been constructed. Northaven is a leading progressive Christian congregation in the Southwest. Northaven is an eclectic collection of gay and straight families, artists, musicians, theater folks, academic theologians, lawyers and judges (go figure), socially conscious community activists, people who don't "check their brain at the door," and a wide array of others who either see it as their "last chance" inside the "institutional church," or their first trip back in decades. Eric is an avid blogger and published author.  Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's an engaging live performer whose first CD was released in 2000. His songs have won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. (As always, if you like this post, then "like" this on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too...)

One thought on “If Only We Had the Old West’s Gun Laws

  1. One point that is always missing in such assertions is that some nut will bring a gun and start shooting REGARDLESS OF THE LAW. That’s what nuts DO. You think that someone who wants to come in and start shooting will be deterred because open carry is against the law? Are you serious? How about the fact that killing people is against the law? Why, in your imagination, is a law against open carry a deterrent, but a law against murder is not? “Dang it; I sure wanted to go shoot the place up, but I guess I can’t because open carry is illegal. So unfair…”

    Does that not strike you as a ludicrous argument?

    Now personally, I think open carry is a stupid thing to practice because, when the nut who doesn’t care about the law comes in and starts shooting, guess who the first target will be? That’s right, the person with a firearm openly on their hip. But I will not infringe upon a person’s right to be a first target. While the bad actor is shooting at the open carry person, I’ll hopefully have time to seek cover and produce my concealed firearm.

    Regarding UT vs UV, that’s great that the plan worked that one time. But it by no means “proved” that college students don’t need to carry firearms. I prefer not to bet my life on the hope that law enforcement’s plan will a) be adequate b) come together in time and c) not dissolve into a giant kludgefest. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge supporter of law enforcement. But as we saw in Columbine, law enforcement’s job is NOT to protect my life. People continued to die in that school for two hours while the cops waited outside. Protecting my life is my responsibility alone, and my constitutionally protected right. When seconds count, the police are just minutes away.

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