When Wyatt Earp arrived in Tombstone, Arizona in 1879 it was not exactly a bastion of law and order. He also didn’t move there seeking to become a legendary lawman, but rather to take advantage of a silver mining boom taking place in the area. As often happened, though, Earp and his brothers found themselves conscripted into service as marshals in order to help clear up the general lawlessness of the city. The first thing they did was establish a law that no firearms would be allowed in town.
It is useful to pause the story here and take note of something. The US Constitution was ratified on June 21, 1788, and was thus the law of the land in 1879. The second amendment, often quoted but almost always taken completely out of context, was ratified a couple of years later in 1791. Contrary to popular modern notions, the second amendment was not about the right of individual Americans to own guns. It was, rather, establishing the right of states to form militias and arm citizens of such militias in the event that a state needed to defend itself against outside forces. Considering the context of the amendment, the primary outside force being considered was the “general government” of the United States. In other words, states had the right to defend themselves from imperial power imposed by the federal government and could arm their citizens for the purpose of forcefully opposing same.
That brings us back to Tombstone, where Marshal Earp was able to impose a gun restriction without violating the second amendment in any way. You will notice that zero of the many movies and television shows made about the gunfight at the OK Corral have Frank McLaury or Billy Clanton complain that Earp’s law violated their second amendment rights. It simply didn’t apply, as the members of the Clanton Gang were not members of a state militia, they were, by all accounts, cattle rustlers, thieves and prototypical Western villains. The Earps, as duly appointed peacekeepers, had every right to require visitors to be unarmed.
In the wake of yet another mass shooting, this time at a school in Nashville, TN, though depending on when you read this there may have been another, more recent occurrence, US leaders really need to do more than offer useless thoughts and prayers. It’s time to take a page out of Wyatt Earp’s book and start reining in the root cause of the growing violence: guns.
The US leads the world in gun ownership per hundred citizens, coming in at 120.5, with war-torn and poverty-stricken Yemen ranking a distant second at 52.8 guns per hundred people. Not surprisingly, the US also leads the globe in gun-related deaths, and it really isn’t close. To this point, discussions among our political leaders have been hollow and involve a lot of shoulder shrugs. Following the Nashville school shooting, Tennessee Representative Tim Burchett said there is “not much we can do” about gun violence in America.
“There’s not a whole lot you can do,” Burchett said. “There’s a whole lot of evil and meaningless in this world and politicians will come in later with the speeches and all this rah-rah stuff. But there’s not a whole lot we can do. Just very helpless feeling.”
What?? Lawmakers can’t do much about guns? See, I thought lawmakers were law makers. Isn’t it their job to pass laws targeting such issues and improving life in America? Just last week Republicans in the US House of Representatives passed HR 5, which expressly allows the banning of books which are deemed too dangerous for kids to read. Martin County, Florida, is pushing the envelop in this cause, boasting a list of 84 banned books which includes the collected works of Toni Morrison and Jodi Picoult, The Kite Runner, and even The Freedom Writer’s Diary by Erin Gruwell, made into a fabulous movie starring Hillary Swank, and Wicked, by Gregory Maguire, which inspired the phenomenal Broadway musical.
We can’t have kids reading books about different life perspectives, can we?
These books are dangerous, it is argued.
“A lot of that which has been going on is an attempt to create a political narrative,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said. “It’s a false political narrative, and that’s bad enough, I guess, but for me, the important thing is that’s a false narrative in service for using our schools as indoctrination rather than education.”
Indoctrination? Wicked??? Seriously???
But ok, let’s say having books in a school library is part of a secret plot by teachers and librarians to indoctrinate students into something or other. Why is it OK to ban books in the name of protecting our children but when it comes to guns there is simply “nothing” we can do?
The reason we can’t do anything isn’t because regulating guns doesn’t work; it works just fine in other countries. The reason we can’t do anything is because one of the most powerful lobbies in the business of our government is the gun lobby. In 2022. gun rights advocates spent $13.2 million lobbying Congress, but that’s nothing compared to what the National Rifle Association doled out. The NRA spent $13.6 million making sure Utah Senator Mitt Romney did “nothing” about gun proliferation. They spent nearly as much in North Carolina, where they spent nearly $11.4 million making sure Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis were clueless about protecting our school children. In fact, a quick scan of the NRA’s political donations in the US Senate explains a great deal about the number of head scratchers and shoulder shruggers in that august body.
As Upton Sinclair famously said, ““it is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
At the end of the day, the only reason America can’t do anything about the growing and pervasive gun problem is because greed and the ridiculous amount of money it takes to run for political office have enabled interest groups often funded by large corporations to essentially implement corporate fascism as our primary form of government. The key to making our country, and in particularly our schools safer is a return to Wyatt Earp’s style of leadership. We need fewer guns, not more guns, and until we rid our country of the pariah of high capacity rifles and magazines we will continue to bury our children while listening to leaders pander with their “thoughts and prayers” and references to a misinterpretation of the second amendment.
In case you missed it, here is Representative Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), a former teacher and principal, expressing precisely the sentiment going around America’s schools. I think I’ll give him the last word today.
2 thoughts on “America’s Wyatt Earp Gun Solution”
Damn man. Yeah, We ( the US) are unique. We are all about freedom. And still working it out.
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Even Thomas Jefferson said the Constitution needed to be updated, something we have not done: [E]ach generation” should have the “solemn opportunity” to update the constitution “every nineteen or twenty years,” thus allowing it to “be handed on, with periodical repairs, from generation to generation, to the end of time.”
-Thomas Jefferson, 1789
It has become as much a hindrance to our freedom and eisegetical readings of the Bible have become a threat to Christianity.