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September 23, 2013 at 6:45 AM

The Carrying of Firearms Strictly Prohibited

The headline is borrowed from a sign in Dodge City, Kansas in 1878. That community and other frontier towns – Tombstone and Deadwood – knew what passed for “open carry” 135 years ago had nothing to do with public safety.

Check out the picture here via a link to a 2011 Salon article by Saul Cornell, a professor of American History at Fordham University. He is the author of “A Well Regulated Militia: The Founding Fathers and the Origins of Gun Control in America.”

America needs a bit of historical context in the midst of this latest wave of pro-gun activism. Strapping on a sidearm and going for a cup of coffee was not what the nation’s founders had in mind.

Howard Schultz, chairman, president and CEO of the Starbucks Coffee Company, spoke for lots of queasy customers worried about running into pistol-packing latte sippers. Schultz asked them kindly, in news accounts and full-page newspaper ads, to please stay away.

“The presence of a weapon in our stores is unsettling and upsetting for many of our customers,” Schultz said in the ad. Yes, me included. I won’t hang around to watch some armed idiot have some bizarre accident that claims an innocent life.

Years ago, a  friend died in front of her children in their family living room, fatally wounded by a stray bullet from a neighboring house. This past summer in Grants Pass, Ore, a man using an assualt rifle as a crutch killed a little girl in an upstairs apartment as he got up from the couch.

The nation is working its way through another shooting tragedy, this time at the Washington Navy Yard. Last December it was 26 lives lost in an elementary school. Read the Cornell piece to understand what steps can be taken that respect gun rights, but introduce a measure of sanity into a mindless environment.

Comments | Topics: Deadwood, Dodge City, open carry

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