More on the Guns Laws of the Old West

A quite excellent post from Extrano’s Alley that quotes several books which suggest that gun control in the old west was, at best, selectively enforced, and generally speaking not enforced at all. I think that would suggest, again, at best, that law enforcement in those towns used it as a tool to lock up troublesome outsiders.

I’ve also heard, anecdotally, from people who lived in the South prior to the advent of shall-issue laws, that carry laws were generally not terribly well-enforced there either, and it was common practice for law enforcement to look the other way if the gun you were carrying wasn’t some cheap piece of crap more commonly carried by criminals rather than respectable folks. It would be interesting to study, given that gun control laws were mostly passed in order to keep undesirables (who varied a bit depending on where you were in the country) from carrying, whether the advent of the shall-issue concealed carry movement came about when those laws started to be more more equally and fairly enforced.

5 thoughts on “More on the Guns Laws of the Old West”

  1. And in the new West, open-carry (as long as unloaded) on California is shortly to be illegal, with law passed and only Gov. Brown’s signature needed.

  2. John Ross has stated that Missouri had a no-concealed weapons law from shortly after the Civil war. No white person was charged with violating this law until sometime in the 1960’s. It was only used against Blacks for almost 100 years.

  3. Sebastian, Thanks for the flowers on what was essentially a rush job.

    On the South, If you define the South as the Old Confederacy, many of the “laws” were more like an absence of laws. Post WWII Mississippi was typical, in that the State had no law requiring lawful disposition of confiscated property, so anything “the law” confiscated “belonged” to the “officer” doing the confiscating.

    Before GCA ’68, the poor of any color were fair game for any predatory “officer” with a shield. As were travelers and anyone else unlikely to have a political influence. Several I could name made more stealing guns from unwary travelers than they received in salary.


  4. What Hank says is the crux of the problem. Arbitrary enforcement of firearms laws has frequently been used as an instrument to control racial and ethnic minorities, as well as the poor (who arguably need guns the most.)

  5. To add some anecdotal evidence about the south, my wife’s grandfather is nearly 90, lives in small town MS, and carries a snubnose .38 with him every where he goes without a permit to be seen. He’s been doing that for 75 years and never once been hassled by anybody.

    He’s basically a carry over from the time when the police looked the other way if you weren’t a known criminal.

    It’s funny because his overalls have a nice neat wear outline of a revolver on the pocket.

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