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Dodge City?

By Dr. Michael R. Bowen
web posted February 3, 2003

It's often said that the Second Amendment is an antiquated concept, no longer applicable in our modern society. We are told "This is not Dodge City anymore." This is correct. Today's America is nothing like Dodge City. It's worse. Americans don't need personal firearms the way they did back then. They need them more.

Dodge City, wild frontier town of the buffalo hunters, cowboys, and Indian fighters had by the 1870s established such a violent reputation that its name became a byword for promiscuous gunplay. But much of this was newspaper sensationalism, for the murder rate in Dodge was actually lower than it is in most American cities today. The killing was almost entirely confined to the denizens of the gambling hells, barrooms, and bordellos frequented by the drunken cowboy, card sharp, and just plain sneak thief. The ordinary sober citizen was almost never molested, and in fact when he was harmed, the perpetrator was dealt with summarily and in brutal fashion, often by his own kind. A woman could walk down Main Street alone at night in Dodge in perfect safety, which is more than we can say for our 'civilized' cities today.

There are two reasons for this: first, there was a commonly held code of decency in those far-off days, and even the crooks subscribed to it, confining their violence among themselves. This is why gambling hall shootouts were viewed with relative indulgence in the old West, while attacks on honest citizens were vigorously punished. The judges and other officials also had this code of decency, so that a murderer often got the noose where today he gets parole.

The second factor is that many of those ordinary citizens, including the women, were armed. The drunken cowboy who tried to pull the farmer's wife into the alley could expect to get shot, often by the wife herself. And afterward, the wife could count on the support of her community, instead of being sued for everything she had the way we do today.

So in bloody Dodge City, almost everyone who got shot was asking for it. If they weren't engaged in drunken brawls, thievery, or cheating at cards, they were busy molesting the Indians and slaughtering their buffalo. But the violent and the criminal left the decent people alone or paid the price, and quickly. Today it's the ordinary citizen who is the target. And the criminals know, as we see in England (where Great Britain used to be), that their victims will not only be unarmed, but will be prosecuted if they try to defend themselves. In the United States today it is settled law that the police have no obligation to protect us. I doubt that many policemen see it that way, but that's how our legal system sees it. We have no right to be protected by law enforcement, and we are told we have no right to take up arms to defend ourselves.

The advocates of gun control are more right then they realize. This isn't the wild, wild west anymore. This isn't Dodge City. If only it could be so: we'd all be a lot safer.

Dr. Michael Bowen, a former Naval officer, has a private medical practice in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. He writes the column "The Basics" for www.AmericasVoices.org, a conservative political opinion and educational web site. His columns also appear in other popular Internet sites, including www.Opinionet.com and www.enterstageright.com. e-mail him at MBowen@americasvoices.org.

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