Apache leader Geronimo, known Goyaałé in his language, is seen posing with a rifle in 1887. Image: National Archives
Law

Law school casebook links gun culture in America to early dealings with tribes





Guns are widely available in the United States as a result of early European dealings with Indian nations, according to an author of a law school casebook.

In Firearms Law and the Second Amendment: Regulation, Rights, and Policy, author David B. Kopel links modern-day American gun culture to the arrival of English immigrants in the 1600s and 1700s. Colonial-era laws made guns all but compulsory, presumably as protection against attacks by tribes, he writes in an essay based in part on the casebook.

At the same time English settlers tried their hardest to enforce gun control laws that forbade sales to citizens of Indian nations, according to Kopel. But guns still ended up in the hands of tribal peoples thanks to trade networks with other European arrivals.

"Whereas European colonists in some other parts of the world could get away with selling primitive firearms, the Indians quickly became sophisticated arms consumers, knowing and demanding quality," Kopel writes in The Washington Post.

Early skirmishes with Indian nations also influenced gun culture, according to Kopel. Tribal warriors quickly became skilled with guns, incorporating them into their traditional warfare practices, and English settlers eventually adopted their techniques, he writes.

"Not until the New Englanders learned to fight like Indians could they defeat the Indians," writes Kopel, who is affiliated with research organizations that have advocated against stronger gun controls.

"The colonists’ new arms culture was profoundly influenced by Indian arms culture, which the colonists imitated in many respects," he concludes.

Kopel isn't the only one making the claim about Indian influence on American gun culture. James A. Warren, another author, cites a 2016 law professor's book in explaining why guns are so widely available in the U.S.

"Yes, Europeans created and manufactured firearms, but in colonial America, it was the Indian who first fully embraced the gun, and mastered its varied applications," Warren wrote on The Daily Best in an article titled "Native Americans Invented Our Gun Culture—and Yes, We Stole That, Too."

Read More on the Story:
David Kopel: The American Indian foundation of American gun culture (The Washington Post November 21, 2017)