If you think you know the history of gun control in America, you’re probably wrong

Let me make clear at the outset here that this post is not an argument in favor of gun control, so spare me your fevered responses about gun-grabbers and Second Amendment rights.

In fact, I didn’t disagree with recent Supreme Court rulings overturning certain gun-control measures in Washington, D.C., and Chicago (although I was amused at the hyprocrisy of right-wingers applauding such judicial activism).

The point of this post is to simply to pass along a fascinating article by Jill Lepore in the upcoming issue of The New Yorker. It’s chock full of interesting tidbits about gun ownership in America and the history of gun control in this country.

Read the whole thing HERE — and don’t miss the part about how black nationalists like Malcolm X started the modern movement promoting the right to bear arms.

A few other excerpts:

The United States is the country with the highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world. (The second highest is Yemen, where the rate is nevertheless only half that of the U.S.) No civilian population is more powerfully armed. Most Americans do not, however, own guns, because three-quarters of people with guns own two or more. According to the General Social Survey, conducted by the National Policy Opinion Center at the University of Chicago, the prevalence of gun ownership has declined steadily in the past few decades. In 1973, there were guns in roughly one in two households in the United States; in 2010, one in three. In 1980, nearly one in three Americans owned a gun; in 2010, that figure had dropped to one in five.


[F]irearms have been regulated in the United States from the start. Laws banning the carrying of concealed weapons were passed in Kentucky and Louisiana in 1813, and other states soon followed: Indiana (1820), Tennessee and Virginia (1838), Alabama (1839), and Ohio (1859). Similar laws were passed in Texas, Florida, and Oklahoma. As the governor of Texas explained in 1893, the “mission of the concealed deadly weapon is murder. To check it is the duty of every self-respecting, law-abiding man.”

Although these laws were occasionally challenged, they were rarely struck down in state courts; the state’s interest in regulating the manufacture, ownership, and storage of firearms was plain enough. Even the West was hardly wild. “Frontier towns handled guns the way a Boston restaurant today handles overcoats in winter,” Winkler writes. “New arrivals were required to turn in their guns to authorities in exchange for something like a metal token.” In Wichita, Kansas, in 1873, a sign read, “Leave Your Revolvers at Police Headquarters, and Get a Check.” The first thing the government of Dodge did when founding the city, in 1873, was pass a resolution that “any person or persons found carrying concealed weapons in the city of Dodge or violating the laws of the State shall be dealt with according to law.”




  1. The author is desperately in need of a good history book on the 20th Century. Gun hobbyists and police officers have been fighting to arm Americans since 1904, when the first regularly enforced American gun laws sent homicide rates through the roof. That preceded MalcomX’ birth by 21 years.

    The facts on gun control are very simple. Since the time of the Biblical David, various fearful rulers have tried disarming their subjects. Each time and every time, the result has been a sky high violent crime wave. The United States has had two major waves of gun control, the first a result of labor violence, the other as a result of studies linking TV violence with societal violence. The first sent the homicide rate from 1 to above 10, the second sent the homicide rate from 4.6 to 10.6.

    More than 600,000 more Americans have been murdered as a direct result of gun control laws than would have died had those laws never existed.


  2. Stranger: Of all the ridiculous claims in your comment, this one is the most preposterous: ”
    “More than 600,000 more Americans have been murdered as a direct result of gun control laws than would have died had those laws never existed.”

  3. Willbill

    The problem with such a survey is a great many citizens believe that firearms ownership is a private matter and refuse to give that information to a stranger on the phone. Firearms dealers are reporting an increase in firearms purchases including first time buyers, and there has been an increase in women purchasing firearms.

  4. It could have started soon after Nov 22, 1963 when proof in the killing of Chief executive Bob F. Kennedy improved attention to the comparative deficit of control over the purchase and control of weapons in The united states. Indeed, until 1968, handguns, guns, shotguns, and rounds were generally marketed over-the-counter and through mail-order online and newspapers to just about any mature anywhere in the country.

  5. storage dude: We’ve never had a chief excutive named Bob F. Kennedy.

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