The history of gun control in America might surprise you

(NOTE: This post from eight months ago is republished here in light of the current debate over guns.)

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 Comment

  1. So, “judicial activism” is now defined as following the letter and intent of the Constitution?

    I find it interesting that we have a “black” president who is determined to prevent as many of his fellows the God-given right to self-defense. After all, it’s hard to keep people under control if they can shoot back!

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