The ‘new’ wild, wild West?

By Nancy Black

I loved watching TV shows like “The Wild Wild West” and “The Rifleman” as a young girl. I actually got to be friends with Johnny Crawford, the child star of “The Rifleman” during my Hollywood days of the 80s and 90s. Those gunslinging cowboys really captivated audiences. And you always knew who the bad guy was because of the color of his hat. 

My, how I long for the good old days.

These days, you never know who will start gunning down a place. A pissed off postal worker, a disgruntled bank employee or even a mentally ill teenager. It seems like mass murders are as common these days as TV westerns were in the olden days.

It made me wonder, “When did civilized people stop carrying guns like they did in those western times?” The answer? After the establishment of a local government.

Dodge City, Kansas is still known for its notoriously dangerous gun fights of the 1800s. But it was really a buffalo hide trading stop and one of the West’s principal cattle towns. Gun crime was rampant until the city’s residents established their first municipal government. 

An official law banning concealed firearms was enacted, and crime was reduced soon afterward. According to my research, similar laws were also passed in other frontier towns to reduce the rate of gun crime. As UCLA law professor Adam Wrinkler noted:

“Carrying of guns within the city limits of a frontier town was generally prohibited. Laws barring people from carrying weapons were commonplace, from Dodge City to Tombstone. When Dodge City residents first formed their municipal government, one of the very first laws enacted was a ban on concealed carry. The ban was soon after expanded to open carry, too. The Hollywood image of the gunslinger marching through town with two Colts on his hips is just that — a Hollywood image, created for its dramatic effect.” 

Hmm. So, it took laws, not thoughts and prayers, to help curb gun violence in the wild, wild west? I sure wish history would repeat itself and create, not eliminate, more gun laws now. 

All of my siblings are proud, Texan gun owners, but even they agree something needs to be done about all these mass murders. And gun violence in general.

Maybe our state’s governor could pass a bill to take some of the $32.7 BILLION Texas has in surplus and invest in the mental health and well-being of its citizens. Just a thought.