Richard Cohen certainly looked at only a selected portion of Western history in his July 15 op-ed column, "Tame West." While the citizens of such Western towns as Dodge City and Tombstone didn't carry guns around on a day-to-day basis, they certainly kept them handy. This is amply demonstrated by the reception the James Gang received in Northfield, Minn., in 1876 and by the Daltons' reception in Coffeville as late as 1892.
Indeed, many historians credit the reality that the Old West was actually much tamer than the myth to the fact that many of its inhabitants were Civil War veterans with experience in the use of firearms.
In short, while a case can be made for gun control, Cohen should refrain from distorting history in order to make it.
-- Rene R. Daugherty
Richard Cohen notes that only "1.5 killings per cowboy season" occurred from 1876 to 1885 in Dodge City, a town with a population of 1,200.
Cohen doesn't say what a "cowboy season" is, so I'll be conservative and assume he means per year. That 1.5 killings per year looks good until you calculate the per capita percentage and compare it with the per capita percentage of citizens killed in New York in 1994 (the year of New York's highest murder total). Based on the approximation of 4,000 deaths in New York in a city of more than 8 million, Dodge City's murder rate per capita would be 250 percent of New York's.
Using Cohen's statistics, I could claim that Dodge City's ban on guns made a person living there 2.5 times as likely to be murdered as a person living in New York in 1994.
-- David McGinley