Today marks the 134th anniversary of what has become the most documented, investigated, recreated and celebrated gunfight in the history of the Old West, on the same day that an article in the Wall Street Journal has literally cracked the code on gun control.
On Oct. 26, 1881, Tombstone Town Marshal Virgil Earp, accompanied by his brothers Morgan and Wyatt, and ex-dentist Dr. John H. “Doc” Holliday, took a little stroll down Fremont Street at about 3 p.m. and walked right into the pages of American folklore. At an empty lot next to Fly’s Photographic Studio, they faced off with Ike and Billy Clanton, Frank and Tom McLaury, and Billy Claiborne. In the short span of about 30 seconds, some 30 shots were fired.
When the smoke cleared – and there was a lot of it because these were all black powder cartridge guns – both McLaury brothers and Billy Clanton were dead or dying. Virgil and Morgan Earp and Doc Holliday were wounded. Ike Clanton and Claiborne had run away.
Today, anti-gunners frequently raise the specter of the O.K. Corral, where the gunfight didn’t actually occur, when they sneer at the notion of armed citizens walking around in public. The gun prohibition lobby has been working feverishly to disarm these honest citizens, but if anyone reads the WSJ essay by Nicholas Johnson today, they will understand why not everyone falls in goose step behind people who want unilateral public disarmament.
As so many fictionalized accounts of Wyatt Earp have portrayed him as a hard-fisted frontier lawman, Johnson pulls no punches in his sharp-edged article. “In the wake of horrific crimes like the recent mass shooting in Oregon,” he writes today, “many in the political class respond as if there were an easy way to keep such tragedies from happening. If it weren’t for the stubbornness of the National Rifle Association, the story goes, these deadly incidents could be prevented. Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton urged ‘sensible restraints,’ and said if she is elected president she would use her executive authority to impose them.
“This sort of rhetoric,” Johnson adds, “suggests that there is a workable policy sitting on the shelf, ready for implementation. It also attempts to have it both ways, suggesting that effective gun control is possible without reaching into America’s gun safes and disarming ordinary citizens.”
Johnson’s final analysis is that the gun prohibition lobby is being duplicitous if not downright dishonest in its efforts. And just who is Johnson? He’s a law professor at Fordham University, and the author of “Firearms Law and the Second Amendment,” according to the WSJ’s footnote at the end of his article.
In today’s parlance, the gunfight in the empty lot by Fly’s – yeah, the “Gunfight at the OK Corral” sounds sexier – was an eruption of “gun violence.” If there had been a one-room schoolhouse within a block or two of the mayhem, Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety lobbying group could call it a “school shooting.”
Lost in all of the lore is the simple fact that the Earps and Holliday went down Fremont Street to disarm the cowboys, but not just because they were violating a city ordinance – the constitutionality of which might easily be disputed today – by carrying firearms. More important to the incident, Ike Clanton had been threatening to kill Holliday, and his companions had threatened to kill the Earps. This was not going to have a harmonious outcome.
Speaking of harmony, the current push for more gun restrictions seems to be falling on somewhat deafer ears. Today’s Washington Post carries a story about a recent WaPo/ABC News poll that finds a “bitter and stark division on whether new gun laws should trump the constitutional right to gun ownership.”
“The survey finds that 46 percent say new laws to reduce gun violence should be a bigger priority,” the newspaper says, “while 47 percent say it’s more important to protect the right to own firearms…Republicans and Americans in rural areas account for the shift toward giving gun rights higher priority. Since 2013, the number of rural Americans who prioritize gun rights over new laws has grown from 46 percent to 61 percent, and the share of Republicans has jumped from 58 percent to 71 percent.”
And the newspaper says something else that reflects what Second Amendment leaders have been saying for some time: “… the Post-ABC poll finds far more point to problems treating people with mental health issues. By a more than 2-to-1 margin, more people say mass shootings reflect problems identifying and treating people with mental health problems rather than inadequate gun control laws (63 percent to 23 percent).”
That should send a message to the gun control crowd, but it won’t. Considering the fact that anti-gunners continually push the same restrictive agenda over and over again, expecting a different outcome, is essentially how Albert Einstein defined insanity. It just might be that the WaPo/ABC News poll is onto something.
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