By: Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
It’s interesting to see how attitudes change over time. Today the right to keep and bear arms is considered sacrosanct among most of the folks in Carter County – Democrats and Republicans alike. Any politician who suggested any form of gun control probably wouldn’t last long on a ticket for local office. To suggest that we limit access even to toy guns would likely be laughed at. After all, most of us grew up playing cops and robbers, or pretending to be soldiers, with toy guns at our sides. And most of us never grew up to use a gun in violence against another person.
Guns today are seen as useful tools – for hunting, for home and livestock protection – and shooting is seen as a legitimate recreational activity.
But a century ago family feuds, the moonshine business, and other illegal activities colored the way the rest of the world saw Kentucky, and the way the rest of the state saw eastern Kentucky, and led to efforts to curb the public carrying of firearms.
These efforts even extended to attitudes toward toy guns, with some folks – including the editors of the Carter County Herald – voicing their support for measures that would have prohibited the sale of toy guns in the state.
When, in early 1924, the state senate voted down a measure supported by Governor William J. Fields – known throughout the state as “Honest Bill from Olive Hill” – which would have prohibited the sale of toy guns, the editor of the local paper opined that the action was taken, “before they had time to think, or at least a majority of them, for if ever there was a law needed to stop this habit it is now.” The paper went on to ask every “right thinking (man)” and “the good mothers” to “rally to the front” and change their Senators’ minds on the matter.
“For the sake of the boys that are coming up,” the paper asked, “can’t we, somehow or other, learn them something better than to kill?”
While acknowledging that parents have the largest role to play in determining their children’s actions and future, the paper was not shy about advocating for toy gun control. It’s an interesting take given that, even today, the focus of gun control is usually on the restriction of real guns, not toys.
While we tend to think of the past as a more “conservative” time, it’s very interesting to see how some of the ideas that we’ve been debating at the state and federal level for the past several years – usually, but not always, under the guidance of more progressive liberal politicians – would not have been any more out of place in political debates of 1924 than they are today.
While we’re skeptical that prohibiting the sale of toy guns would have done much to stop pretend shootouts – when we didn’t have toy guns as children it didn’t stop us from picking up curved sticks to continue our games after all – we’ll never know what impact 100 years of no toy guns might have had on the gun culture we know today.
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