Lately, one of the arguments against carrying firearms in today's America is "Blood will run in the streets like it did in the Wild West!" Well, it didn't run in the streets. And those who think it did watch too many Westerns (even though they are a lot of fun to watch) and think Hollywood actually tells the truth. Remember the newspaper creed- "If it bleeds it leads"? Well, violence sells. Stories of farming, ranching, and small-town life don't. It's really that simple. Don't believe me? Check this out. It's an article about a couple of books telling the story of the real "Wild West", who kept the peace, and how much peace there was. Were there violent events? Of course. The Lincoln County range war is a perfect example. 19 deaths over a period of 10 months. It was the biggest range war recorded, and to this day, it is undetermined who really caused it, and who were the lawbreakers and who were legitimate. The sheriff and posse that killed the first man may well have been operating under a court order bought and paid for rather than legitimately written. In other words, it may have been government corruption that caused the war. But I digress. From the linked article-
In a thorough review of the “West was violent” literature, Bruce Benson (1998) discovered that many historians simply assume that violence was pervasive—even more so than in modern-day America—and then theorize about its likely causes. In addition, some authors assume that the West was very violent and then assert, as Joe Franz does, that “American violence today reflects our frontier heritage” (Franz 1969, qtd. in Benson 1998, 98). Thus, an allegedly violent and stateless society of the nineteenth century is blamed for at least some of the violence in the United States today.
So, does basing your beliefs that the west was violent on the theory that the west was violent, with no proof otherwise, sound a bit fishy to you? Me neither. Further,
In a book-length survey of the “West was violent” literature, historian Roger McGrath echoes Benson’s skepticism about this theory when he writes that “the frontier-was-violent authors are not, for the most part, attempting to prove that the frontier was violent. Rather, they assume that it was violent and then proffer explanations for that alleged violence” (1984, 270).
In contrast, an alternative literature based on actual history concludes that the civil society of the American West in the nineteenth century was not very violent. Eugene Hollon writes that the western frontier “was a far more civilized, more peaceful and safer place than American society today” (1974, x). Terry Anderson and P. J. Hill affirm that although “[t]he West . . . is perceived as a place of great chaos, with little respect for property or life,” their research “indicates that this was not the case; property rights were protected and civil order prevailed. Private agencies provided the necessary basis for an orderly society in which property was protected and conflicts were resolved” (1979, 10).
So who provided the security of the times? Apart from county sheriffs and the occasional town sheriff, it was private concerns.
What were these private protective agencies? They were not governments because they did not have a legal monopoly on keeping order. Instead, they included such organizations as land clubs, cattlemen’s associations, mining camps, and wagon trains.
So-called land clubs were organizations established by settlers before the U.S. government even surveyed the land, let alone started to sell it or give it away. Because disputes over land titles are inevitable, the land clubs adopted their own constitutions, laying out the “laws” that would define and protect property rights in land (Anderson and Hill 1979, 15). They administered land claims, protected them from outsiders, and arbitrated disputes. Social ostracism was used effectively against those who violated the rules. Establishing property rights in this way minimized disputes—and violence
And those "Wild and Woolly Cowtowns"?
In his book, Frontier Violence: Another Look, author W. Eugene Hollon, provides us with these astonishing facts:
- In Abilene, Ellsworth, Wichita, Dodge City, and
, for the years from 1870 to 1885, there were only 45 total homicides. This equates to a rate of approximately 1 murder per 100,000 residents per year.
, supposedly one of the wildest of the cow towns, not a single person was killed in 1869 or 1870.
Zooming forward over a century to 2007, a quick look at Uniform Crime Report statistics shows us the following regarding the aforementioned gun control “paradise” cities of the east:
- DC – 183 Murders (31 per 100,000 residents)
– 494 Murders (6 per 100,000 residents)
– 281 Murders (45 per 100,000 residents)
– 104 Murders (37 per 100,000 residents)
And don't forget Chicago- 513 murders in 2012 (and the toughest gun laws) meaning 1 out of every 5277 people was murdered. 19 murders per 100,000 residents. So the Wild West wasn't wild, but the civilized East sure as hell is.
So, if loosening gun laws will make America like the Wild West, I'm all for it. The Wild West was a safer place to live than our nation's capital is today. With some of the tightest "gun control" laws in the country.