In a couple of western I’ve seen the marshal or sheriff will tell someone that firearms are not allowed withing town limits.
In reality was that ever the case, and if so did anyone ever fight such ordinances on the grounds that it violated the right to bear arms? Were there ever any legal battles regarding gun laws in the 1800’s?
First of all, the “Wild West” as you see in movies is an invention of old dime store novels and Hollywood. Gunslingers didn’t face each other on the street and quick draw. Sheriffs generally didn’t have six-gun slinging cowboys walking all over the place just itching for a fight.
That said, a lot of frontier towns did have gun control laws, and for the most part people respected them and they weren’t challenged.
While the local laws weren’t challenged much, state-wide laws did often end up challenged in court. The issue of gun control isn’t as modern as some folks think it is. Throughout the 1800s there was a lot of debate about whether the right to bear arms was really an individual right or if it only pertained to groups that banded together in the defense of the nation. Some states enacted strict gun control laws that were later challenged. Kentucky for example banned concealed weapons in the 1820s, and that law was later repealed by the supreme court.
There were also legal battles over whether or not slaves could bear arms, and after the Civil War, if freed slaves could bear arms.
Oddly enough, one of the people known for favoring and strictly enforcing gun control measures was none other than Wyatt Earp. I think there was at least a city ordinance in Dodge City, and definitely in Tombstone. IIRC, the infamous “Gunfight at the OK Corral” was attributable in part to an effort to enforce the local gun control law.
The 2nd amendment right to bear arms is not a right to bear arms anywhere you wish.
For example, I have a concealed carry permit in Montana, and it specifically does not allow me to carry (concealed or otherwise) in schools, government buildings, banks, or anyplace that serves alcohol to the public.
This thread makes me think of one of the oddest sights I’ve seen. I went to the post office in Managua, Nicaragua in 1987, and everyone had to leave their guns outside. A soldier was on duty collecting them at a little table as people went in.
Note that courts back then were far less likely to find individual rights under any amendment back then. What jurisprudence there was on the first, fourth, or eighth amendments, for instance, looked very different from what we know today. Even today, there is very little case law on the second amendment, and what there is tends to be very recent.
Quite true, but it does set a precedent that there are places where it’s okay and places where it’s not. Laws and jurisdictions were a bit fuzzier back then. If a property owner could set rules for his property, could the Marshall set rules for his town? It’s an especially fuzzy question if the town hadn’t been established long enough to be on the Federal government’s radar, or if the town was in a territory rather than a state.
I was wondering about that last point. How were towns incorporated in federal territory, or were they? Was calling the head law enforcer in those towns Marshall, rather than Sheriff or Chief of Police just a honorific, or did they have some sort of federal mandate?
ETA: what Tom Tildrum said: the US Supreme Court handed down several rulings during the latter nineteenth century denying that the Bill of Rights applied to the states, although some of those rulings have since been superceded.