Written by Terry McGahey
Chapter Seven: The NRA
The following morning, Jack called Ed and asked him to come over because we had something to discuss.
Within the hour, we were drinking coffee in Jacks shop while discussing our next move.
We decided to call the Arizona Pistol and Rifle Association to ask for their advice on how to handle this matter.
We spoke to the president of the Association, and told him of the problems we were facing. He suggested that we call the NRA, because they were big enough to tackle the situation without worrying about money.
He gave me the correct phone number, and told me to ask for Bob in the legal department. I told Jack and Ed of his recommendations, and asked them if they wanted me to make the call. Ed and Jack said, "lets do it," at the exact same moment.
I called and told the receptionist who I wanted to speak with, and she put me through. Bob came on and asked what this was about, and I explained the whole situation with Tombstone and the old ordinance, and also told him what had happened to me on the road, and about Jack’s horse.
Bob said that he would get back to me in a few days with an answer weather the NRA could help us or not.
That same morning the phone rang and it was a radio station in Detroit, Michigan. The fellow on the other end told me that our story had hit the Associated Press, and asked if I would allow him to interview me on live radio and then allow callers to ask me questions?
I spoke to several people during that half an hour, but the one I remember most was a Detroit police officer.
He said that he believed in our stand against Tombstone one hundred percent, that as a police officer he would rather see a man carrying a gun on his hip in a legal manner because he would know that this was most likely an honest citizen. It was the criminals carrying illegally under their coats which is the problem.
Besides, if more honest people could carry guns legally, then the criminals would think twice before committing their crimes. He then wished us luck in our endeavor, and said Godspeed. I wish to this day that I could have met this man personally, he was a true gentleman.
The following day, Jack and I had went to the post office and we couldn't believe it.
Some folks had actually sent us some fan mail. They just addressed an envelope with our names on them, and sent them to the Tombstone post office. The post office in Tombstone was very small, just as the town is, so therefore the postal employees knew us by name. By the way, we did not receive one letter which berated us.
Later, Jack had to meet one of the merchants in town to give him a bid on building a sign for his window. I decided to walk down to the Crystal Palace, and talk to Dave while waiting on Jack.
As I was walking down the boardwalk, I ran into the mayor. He asked if I would walk with him to his office to discuss our problem, and I agreed to do so.
When I walked into his office, one of the council members was also there. They wanted to make a deal.
They told me that the city would leave me alone while wearing my gun on horseback, if we would drop the issue completely. I laughed to myself and told them not to worry; the situation would be resolved, leading them to believe whatever they wanted too.
If they thought for one minute that I was going to sell my partners down the river, just so I could carry my gun while others couldn't, they could go to hell. I had made up my mind that one way or another this fight was going to court.
I walked back to Allen Street and Jack was waiting for me at the truck, and he asked, "Where the hell did you go?"
I told him to just get in the truck, and I would tell him about it on the way home. During the ride home, I explained what had happened with the mayor, and how I left him thinking that we would drop the whole thing.
I wanted the mayor to feel comfortable until we were able to figure out how we would lower the boom on him with an attorney, and a court summons.
Jack agreed that this plan would be the best way to handle the mayor, while cooling off the situation with the town folks at the same time, and then like a bolt of lightening hit Tombstone with a lawsuit when they least expected it.
Later that afternoon, Bob from the NRA phoned me. He said that the NRA would take this case, and he gave me the phone number of an attorney in Tucson.
He then made the statement, "Once you start this fight with our backing, you have to see it through and not leave us hanging. Is that understood?"
I assured him that it was fully understood, and we would see this thing through until the end. Thanked him and hung up.
I immediately walked over to Jack’s place and told him that we were now backed by the NRA and needed to call an attorney in Tucson. We called Ed, and he was almost ecstatic, and said he was on his way to our place to hear what the attorney had to say.
Once Ed arrived, we called the number and realized that our attorney was a woman. She asked if we could drive to Tucson on the following morning and meet her at the office, and gave us the address.
The following morning Jack, Ed, and I drove to Tucson in Ed’s pickup truck while leaving mine parked in town. When we arrived at the attorney’s office we waited only a few minutes before being called into her office.
As we walked in, I was very impressed with all of the shooting awards which lined the walls of her office, many of them being first place awards. She was a small lady, about five foot two or three, and approximately thirty five years of age. It was kind of hard to equate her and the trophies together at first, but once she spoke, it wasn't. She was a very nice person, but also very matter of fact. All three of us took a liking to her immediately.
Ed, being a retired police officer, had been chosen by us to do most of the talking. He explained our circumstances in Tombstone, and how the city council and the mayor had completely ignored our requests to have our argument placed on the legal agenda during the council meetings. He then showed her his permit allowing him to carry a cap gun, and she could not believe her eyes.
At that point, she explained to us how she would handle the case and what she expected from us, which was not to back away from the fight because many people in the past had done so in these types of situations, which did nothing but cost the NRA money needlessly.
We assured her that we would not back away from this fight and signed the legal papers to proceed with the lawsuit.
On our way home, we discussed the lawsuit and how the crap would hit the fan when the city received the notice that the suit had been filed. I chuckled some, and told Jack and Ed that the mayor will have a conniption fit because I had let him believe whatever he wanted to when I told him this situation would be taken care of.
Now he would find out exactly what I had meant.
As we pulled into Tombstone, we all agreed not tell anyone about this until it became public knowledge. Ed dropped Jack and me off in front of Big Nose Kate’s Saloon, and as we rounded the corner from Allen Street onto Fifth Street, I noticed that my truck had been sandwiched in tight by two other vehicles which were bumper to bumper, front and rear, of my truck.
I wasn't going anywhere!
We walked from saloon to saloon, asking who owned the vehicles, but no one seemed to know anything about them. I just figured that the vehicles were probably owned by some tourists from Sierra Vista or Tucson, so Jack and I decided to have a beer at the Legends Saloon hoping that by the time we finished one of the vehicles would have left.
Jeff was sitting at the corner of the bar when we walked in. We sat down, we told him about my truck, and just passed some time visiting with him. We finished our beers, then walked up to Fifth Street, only to find my truck still hemmed in.
I then spotted one of the marshal’s deputies, and explained to him what had happened and his response was, "Nothing I can do about it" and walked away.
We walked back to the saloon and asked Jeff if he would give us a ride to our place, and said that we would come back later in Jack’s truck to pick mine up. That evening, about eight o’clock, we came back and my truck was finally free.
A few days later, I had to drive over to Sierra Vista to buy a ton of hay for the horses. When I returned, Jack met me at the hay barn and helped me unload while telling me that he had received a telephone call from the news show “A Current Affair” and they wanted to do an interview with us.
After we finished unloading and stacking the hay, we sat on Jack’s porch with a cup of coffee and talked about the possible interview. Jack told me that he had agreed to do the interview believing that this would be the best way to get our story out to the whole country, and maybe weaken Tombstone’s resolve to fight our lawsuit in court.
He stated that the film crew would be in Tombstone in two days, and they would contact us when they arrived. We gave Ed this information, and he stated that he would be there with his camera behind the scenes in case something should happen with the marshal’s office.
On the morning of the interview, it couldn't have been a nicer day, about eighty degrees and clear as a bell with no wind which would normally bring small dust storms.
The host of the show, Harley Taft, called us and asked if we could meet him about eight a.m. that morning at the Longhorn Restaurant to discuss where we would film the interview.
As we walked into the restaurant the waitress pointed us out to Harley, who was already having his breakfast, and we joined him at his table. Ron, a member of the city council was sitting at the next table, and he, being the only friend we had on the council laughed when he heard what was about to happen, said, "the Mayor has brought this upon himself, and deserves whatever he gets for breaking the law. He won’t listen to anyone, not even the city attorney."
Harley said that he had looked over the town, and decided that the Tombstone cemetery west of town and not Boot Hill would be the perfect place to do the interview. He had finished his breakfast, just as ours was arriving, so he excused himself saying that he would go set up the film crew, and we should meet him there in about an hour. He paid for our breakfast and left the restaurant.
When we arrived at the cemetery, the film crew was ready to begin filming so Harley began the interview almost immediately.
He asked us about our stand against Tombstone, and what the Arizona law stated about this subject. He then asked us about the council meetings, and the mayor’s stand against us, and said that he himself could not believe the city Tombstone was enforcing such an illegal ordinance.
After the interview, he said that he couldn't believe how arrogant the mayor had been and that he should be voted out of office.
The interview had gone very well, and afterwards we all decided to go to the Legends Saloon for a couple of sodas. Several folks came in and congratulated us on the interview, and said that they were behind us.
I looked at Jack and Ed, and said, "sure, they are behind us alright, so far behind us that we couldn't see them with a pair of binoculars."
For the next few weeks everything seemed quiet, and it was almost as though the issue over the old ordinance had gone away.
During that time, I went over to the Benson Horse sale barn but no one was around except one of the hands. I helped him finish shoeing an old horse because I hadn't anything to do, and I was in no hurry.
As I was about to leave, a fellow in an old pickup truck and an even older horse trailer had pulled up and he asked me through his truck window if the owner was around. I told him that I had been there for about an hour, and I had found out that the owner was in Tucson and he wouldn't be back until late that evening.
This fellow then climbed out of his truck, and what a sight he was to behold. He had his right arm in a sling; he had scrapes all over the right side of his face and a large green knot on the right side of his head.
I asked him what had happened, and he just pointed to the horse trailer. He said he had a crazy Arabian horse, and he was going to sell that S.O.B. for three hundred dollars, papers and all.
He had been trying to break the horse, but instead, the horse had broken him. I really didn't have any use for an Arabian horse, because they are not generally good for working cattle, but I took a look at him anyway.
For three hundred dollars, with papers, I couldn't lose. I could have sold that horse to the killer for dog food for more than that. The horse was a very good looking chestnut, and seemed to be sound, so I bought him with the understanding that this fellow would deliver him to Tombstone.
He jumped at the chance, and followed me to my place, and I unloaded him in a separate pen from my horses. I gave that fellow his money and never seen him again.
I also wrote a poem about this situation, and I call it “A Good Deal”
I was hangin’ round the sale barn with nothin’ else to do,
so we threw some iron on one old horse cause he had thrown
This fellow pulled up in an old pickup truck with an old horse
trailer in tow. He climbed out slowly and walked our way, he
was limpin’ and movin’ real slow.
He had one arm wrapped in a sling and bruises all over the place,
a big green knot on the side of his head and multiple scrapes on his face.
He said that he had an Arabian horse from which he had a hard fall,
and if someone would give him three hundred dollars they could
have him, papers and all.
Well, I looked at him and asked, are you sure, you might want to
think twice, but he said he was sure so I bought the danged thing,
he was worth more than that at killer price.
I worked with that horse for about two weeks before he was decent
too ride and rein, I guess that fellow didn’t know what he was doin’
and was probably feeding it way too much grain.
Well, I sold that horse for one thousand dollars almost two weeks
to the day, I laughed to myself when I thought of that fellow as the
new owner rode him away.
It had only been two or three days since I had sold the Arabian horse, when the story of our lawsuit hit the Tombstone Tumbleweed.
In order to avoid questions from everyone in town, we all decided to just stay home for a few days, and while talking to Ed on the telephone found that he had decided to do the same except when he had to work at the Bird Cage Theater.
One evening, Jack and I were sitting on his front porch enjoying the solitude and having a cup of coffee. It was already dark, so we had the porch light on. It was one of those low wattage yellow bulbs, but still it lit up the whole area in front of the porch.
All of a sudden, we heard a gunshot and with our peripheral vision saw the bright flash of a rifle muzzle coming from the direction of the wash.
The sound of the blast was almost deafening as it came from the quiet darkness, and the bullet had struck the edge of Jack’s house about one or two feet over our heads.
We both hit the ground as quickly as possible, and Jack crawled into the house to turn off the porch and living room lights. He then made his way through the house in the darkness to his shop, and came out with his double barrel coach gun while handing me his .45 caliber Colt revolver.
Jack then let both barrels go in the direction of the muzzle flash, and I fired two rounds in the same direction. We were firing blind, but we had hoped this would scare off whoever it was.
It seemed to work, because we didn't hear anything more after that.
We worked ourselves slowly around the back side of Jack’s house and along John’s old place, and into the wash, but no one was there. We sat in the darkness until approximately two a.m., just in case anyone would be stupid enough to come back.
I found it to be ironic that these people who were supposedly against guns were the ones who fired the first shots in anger.
The following morning I walked over to Jack’s place and brought with me several different calibers of bullets, one of them was a .30-06 caliber bullet, which I placed into the graze in the brick on the house. It fit perfectly!
There was no doubt that it had been a .30 caliber bullet fired at us.
We didn't bother to call the sheriff, because we knew all he could do was to write a report. So rather than waste their time, we called the Tombstone marshal just so we would have it on record.
He told us that we were not in his jurisdiction, and it wasn't his problem. We told him that we understood, but we would just like it recorded should we need the proof at a later date.
He said that he would record it, but to this day I doubt that he did it because the Tombstone marshal’s office could have cared less if anything happened to us, as long as it didn't take place within the Tombstone city limits. Besides, in order to record it, the marshal would have had to sent a deputy down to our place which he didn't
Should anyone in Tombstone, who knows the Old Guthrie place inspect the house Jack lived in, I am sure that the bullet graze is still there unless someone patched it. But patched or not, I could still point it out.
After fitting the bullet to the graze in the brick, which had also taken a fair size hunk of material from the brick, Jack and I decided to walk into the wash and search for any evidence that may have been left behind.
We found nothing but more tennis shoe prints, just like the ones we found in Jack’s horse corral when his horse had been spooked previously. From that time forward, we never left our porch lights on at night.
Someone had been watching our movements, or so it seemed, because only a day or two later Jack went to Sierra Vista to do some grocery shopping.
About two hours later, I could hear Jack's pickup truck coming down our road at a much faster pace than normal. I could hear the truck bouncing hard down our dirt road, and as it came closer I could see the look on Jacks face as he pulled up in front of my place. His look was as a combination of shock, fright and anger all rolled into one.
As Jack climbed out of his truck, he was already cussing and pointing to his windshield. Someone had again taken a shot at him, and the chrome strip around the windshield had a bullet hole in it. Whoever had taken that shot, had almost hit their target this time. This situation was growing more dangerous by the day.
This time we called the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office and reported the incident, and the dispatcher told us to hold tight because she didn't know how long it would take for a deputy to arrive.
About an hour or so later, the sheriff’s deputy pulled up in front of my house and looked over the bullet hole in the chrome molding on Jack’s truck. He wrote a report on the incident, and told us to keep our eyes open because there is no way of knowing who might be behind this, and in his opinion this situation would probably escalate as time went on.
With that, he drove off while wishing us good luck.
By this time, Ed would just be going on lunch break from the Bird Cage, so I called him on the phone and asked if he could take a few minutes before he went back to work, and come to our place so we could talk to him about our situation. He said that he would be there in a few minutes.
When Ed pulled up to our place, he had a copy of the Tombstone Tumbleweed in his hand. The Tumbleweed had published the lawsuit filed by the NRA on behalf of Ed, Jack and myself.
After reading the article, we showed Ed the bullet hole in Jack’s truck and the house, and told him what the sheriff’s deputy said.
We cautioned him to keep his eyes open.
-- end Chapter Seven
For Chapter 8 of one man's fight against the City of Tombstone and the historic Tombstone City Ordinance Number 9 -- America's most famous gun-control law, please click on the link below: