Even The Wild West Wasn’t That Wild

Anyone out there remember Wyatt Earp (1994)?

kevin costner in the 1994 movie wytt earp

It was, probably, the most realistic movie portrayal of what is, probably, the most famous gun fight in all of American history.

The film did poorly at the box office, my own opinion being that it would have fared better if it had been much less true-to-life.  One example which springs to mind is how the action screeches to a halt right after the famous gun fight, as the scene shifts to a courtroom.  History records that the survivors on the losing side filed assault and murder charges against Wyatt Earp and those who were with him on that day.  A local Justice of the Peace held hearings for 30 days to determine what had happened, and then turned the case over to a grand jury to see if there were any grounds to bring the accused to trial.

court gavel with scales of justice

Hold the phone!  Court proceedings?  Justice of the peace?  Month long hearings?  Even a grand jury to see if there was to be a trial?

This certainly doesn’t sound like the Wild West that is famed in song and story!  Wasn’t every man an island, armed to the teeth and a law unto themselves?  Hair trigger tempers cause the use of hair trigger guns?  No consequences or rules that spell out when lethal force is acceptable, and no one to say that gunning down a ne’er-do-well is murder most foul?

cowboy action shooter with two guns

The historical record is very clear.  Virtually at the very instant that permanent settlements were formed, the residents turned their attention to imposing law and order on everyone involved.  County sheriffs were elected, town marshals were hired, and court houses were built as soon as possible so local judges could hand down punishments to those who violated the law.

modern western lawmen

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the legality of protecting your beloved pets when they are attacked through the use of lethal force.  The fact of the matter is that the law considers animals to be property, not people, and the general rule is that shooting someone to protect property is strictly against the law.  This applies just about everywhere, except under a very narrow set of exceptions.  This is true even in my adopted state of Texas, even though the conditions where lethal force is legal are broader than those found in other parts of the US.

After writing about protecting pets, I received an email from a long time reader concerning the essay.

“I thought it was a general purpose acception in most “firearm friendly” states like Texas and AZ ,was that thar were no given rules of engagement…”

No, not so.  And it wasn’t even so more than 130 years ago.

Before anyone takes our friend to task for his erroneous impression, let me remind you that it is a very easy misconception to acquire.  The majority of people working in the American news industry nurture a bitter and unrelenting hatred of any private citizen who dares to arm themselves against violent criminal attack.  They strive at every turn to depict decent, law abiding people who want to protect innocent lives as racist, misogynistic, in bred killers who are hell bent on finding a legal way to kill someone.  The wonder of it all is that there are some people who don’t fall for the line of bull!

So he has a wrong impression.  But he comes here along with all of you, my dear readers, so it looks like the best efforts of the gun control advocates have failed this time around.

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