Gun Control Is as Old as the Old West:Contrary to the popular imagination, bearing arms on the frontier was a heavily regulated business 

Dodge City in 1878It’s October 26, 1881, in Tombstone, and Arizona is not yet a state. The O.K. Corral is quiet, and it’s had an unremarkable existence for the two years it’s been standing—although it’s about to become famous.
 
Marshall Virgil Earp, having deputized his brothers Wyatt and Morgan and his pal Doc Holliday, is having a gun control problem. Long-running tensions between the lawmen and a faction of cowboys – represented this morning by Billy Claiborne, the Clanton brothers, and the McLaury brothers – will come to a head over Tombstone’s gun law.
 
The laws of Tombstone at the time required visitors, upon entering town to disarm, either at a hotel or a lawman’s office. (Residents of many famed cattle towns, such as Dodge City, Abilene, and Deadwood, had similar restrictions.) But these cowboys had no intention of doing so as they strolled around town with Colt revolvers and Winchester rifles in plain sight. Earlier on this fateful day, Virgil had disarmed one cowboy forcefully, while Wyatt confronted another and county sheriff Johnny Behan failed to persuade two more to turn in their firearms.
 
When the Earps and Holliday met the cowboys on Fremont Street in the early afternoon, Virgil once again called on them to disarm. Nobody knows who fired first. Ike Clanton and Billy Claiborne, who were unarmed, ran at the start of the fight and survived. Billy Clanton and the McLaury brothers, who stood and fought, were killed by the lawmen, all of whom walked away.
 
 

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