Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Last Gun Fight -- The Death of Ordinance Number 9 (Chapter Five)

Written by Terry McGahey


Chapter Five: Lies and Deceit

For the next few days the city of Tombstone was buzzing like a hive of angered bees just waiting to lash out and sting anything that moved.

While going to the post office or anywhere else in town, we were either heroes or jack asses depending on which person we ran across on the boardwalk. Several of the folks would shake our hands and tell us how glad they were that we had stood up against the political machine in Tombstone, and others would either snub us or tell us how we were nothing but trouble makers and that we should leave Tombstone and never return.

My general reply to those folks was to tip my hat and tell them to go to hell. Jack would spend time arguing his point of view with many of these people, but I personally wouldn't waste my time doing so because we were not going to change their opinion and they were not going to change ours.

Now don’t get me wrong, I had several heated arguments over the ordinance but not as often as Jack. He believed that he might be able to change their minds, and I knew that I couldn't because these folks did not understand that this fight was about standing up for our rights more so than a gun issue.

One example of these confrontations took place while coming out of the Longhorn restaurant one morning when we ran across one of the members of the city council.

This fellow was from New York City and believed as many folks who live in large cities that no one should be able to carry a gun. He lambasted us over our stance while telling us that we did not belong in Tombstone.

When he took a short break so he could take a breath, I told him that he was the one who did not belong because people like him who decided to move into our environment who wanted to bring their bullshit laws with them were the people who should go back where they came from where the laws were more to their liking.

If you move into a culture which is different than what you are accustomed too then either fit in or get the hell out because we do not want you.

I have to admit, I wanted to punch him in the nose so badly that I could almost taste it, and I told him that he was reaching the end of my patience and that this was not a large metropolitan area where people could talk nasty to each other from behind their locked car doors and get away with it without repercussions. With that, we went our way and he went about his.

After this incident, Jack and I went to the post office, and while walking to the pickup truck he bought a copy of the local newspaper called the Tombstone Tumbleweed.

At that time the Tumbleweed was nothing more than a mouth piece for the city government in most folk’s opinions, and it was owned by two strange little fellows who had their noses up the mayors rear end.

These two odd fellows had also purchased the Wagon Wheel Restaurant and turned it into a fancy, out of place entity which they called the Bella Union. This establishment never did go over well in Tombstone and it finally closed after a few short years or so.

When Jack and I arrived home I went to work cleaning my house. I had let it go for several days and I couldn't stand to look at it anymore.

As I was doing the dishes the phone rang, it was Jack and with anger in his voice he asked me if I could come over to his place and read the article which had been written in the Tombstone Tumbleweed about the legality of the Tombstone ordinance.

As I walked into Jack’s house, he handed me a cup of coffee and the newspaper already opened to the article which seemed to have him in a thither. As I read the article, I could not believe my eyes.

It stated, by state law, a city could be more stringent on its gun laws than the state of Arizona, but it could not be less stringent then the state law. The article even went so far as to claim that the editor had spoken to the county attorney’s office in Bisbee, and he had talked to the county attorney himself which was where this information had come from.

Knowing the state law as we did, we were sure that this was an out and out lie which had been printed to convince the people of Tombstone that this was the law, so therefore Tombstone was in the right, and the old Earp ordinance was legal.

I immediately called the county attorney’s office and by chance he was in. I read the article to him over the phone, and he told me that he had never talked to anyone about this subject and that he had not spoken to anyone with Tombstone Tumbleweed at all.

He then stated that he would call the newspaper and force them to print a retraction, which he did, and the following week the retraction was printed.

I know as this story progresses, it will become hard to believe, but the worst is yet to come.

Should anyone research the archives of the Tombstone Tumbleweed, the Sierra Vista Herald or KGUN 9 News in Tucson from 1991 to 93, you will find different parts of this story in print or on film.

Many of the events which are to come are also on public record as police reports filed with the Cochise County Sheriff’s Department in Bisbee, Arizona.

After I had hung up the telephone with the county attorney, Jack and I decided to call the Arizona State Attorney Generals Office. I could not believe our luck, the Attorney General, Mr. Corbin, was in the office and he personally took our phone call.

We then explained our situation with Tombstone and their illegal ordinance, and he then explained to us that the city of Tombstone was in direct conflict with the Arizona State law and that he would send the mayor of Tombstone a letter explaining this.

He would also send us a copy of that letter so we would know when it arrived. With that, we believed our battle to be won, but this only fueled the fire as we would come to realize during the next council meeting.

Believing that we had won, we decided to drive up to city hall and request that the issue be placed on the legal agenda for the next city council meeting which would take place in three more weeks. The request was granted, and we stood there watching as the issue was noted on the upcoming agenda.

For the next few weeks, other than a few snide remarks made by some of the merchants in town, everything was quiet. But, little did we know, this would become the quiet before the storm and the situation would soon turn into a chaotic unbelievable mess.

By this time many of the people who stated that they would stand behind us during this endeavor had changed their minds because they had become all too aware that this fight was going to get dirty, and they had lost their bravado because they had also lost their courage.

Even though we had received the copy of the letter which the Attorney General had sent to the mayor of Tombstone, and showed it to many of these folks, they were still afraid to put their head into the noose and stand up for what was right.

Friday evening, the evening of the council meeting, Jack, Ed and me, went to Big Nose Kate’s Saloon and drank a soda while trying to gain some support from the many folks who had supported us during our first attempt at Shieffelin Hall, but we had no luck.

As we left the Saloon for the council meeting, we crossed Allen Street to Fourth Street, and while walking North on Fourth toward Freemont Street, Jack began to laugh slightly.

I asked him what he found to be so funny and he replied, "Think about it. We are walking along part of the very same route which the Earp brother’s and Doc Holliday took while on their way to the gunfight at the O.K. Corral and the old ordinance was the legal vehicle which they used as their premise to do so, just as the ordinance is the reason for our walk down Fourth Street. I guess, whoever stated that history repeats itself knew what they were talking about".

I thought to myself, the only difference this time is the roles are reversed. In 1881, it had been the Earps who had made this walk and now it was the cowboy’s turn to walk the same route, over one of the same issues, but it was taking place 110 years later.

As we approached the corner of Fourth and Fremont Streets, I could see Hal and Bill standing on the corner. They were waiting on us to arrive before crossing Freemont Street to Shieffelin Hall.

When we walked up to them, Bill asked, "Where is everyone else?"

I told Bill that we were it and that everyone else had lost their sand.

Hal then stated, "Well, Bill and I will still support you and the hell with the rest of them."

Even though I knew that Bill and Hal were not going to involve themselves anymore than just be our friends and give us moral support, I was grateful for that.

As we crossed Freemont Street, the doors to Shieffelin Hall were already open and most everyone had already entered the building and had taken their seats.

As the five of us entered, we knew that we were heavily out numbered. If the looks on the faces of those folks could have killed, we would have died a horrible death. I now had a slight idea of how Custer must have felt at the Little Big Horn.

The Mayor called the meeting to order, and once again he and the council took care of the city business just as usual. We waited patiently for the subject of the ordinance to come up, because after all, we knew it was on the legal agenda.

The subject never did come up, and we had found out later that the mayor had taken it upon himself to exclude the issue from the agenda. We could not believe his arrogance, and once again we had to wait for the open forum at the end of the meeting.

At that time I raised my hand, and once again the mayor had called upon everyone else in the hall until there was no one left but me.

When finally recognized, I stood up and read the letter from the Arizona State Attorney General’s office and stated that this letter was a copy of the original which the mayor had received.

The Mayor then acknowledged that he had received the letter, but since it did not formally direct him to change the ordinance, he would not do so.

Again, the arrogance of the mayor was just unbelievable. He had a document right in front of him explaining that the Tombstone ordinance was illegal, but he refused to do anything about it.

At that moment, one fellow stood up and declared that Tombstone still fell under territorial law because the correct papers were not filed with the state of Arizona back in 1912, so therefore state law meant nothing to Tombstone.

I have to admit, I did not know what to say. What do you say to anyone who is that ignorant to believe such a thing?

At that point the Mayor closed the meeting, so there would not be a chance of losing control as he had during the previous one.

As we walked out of Shieffelin Hall, a reporter from the Sierra Vista Herald asked if we could give him a minute or two. We showed him the letter from the Attorney General’s office, and explained our stand against the old Earp ordinance.

The reporter then asked us some questions, wrote down some notes, and before leaving he stated that he also could not believe the mayor’s arrogance and did not understand how Tombstone had gotten away with enforcing the old ordinance for all those many years.

The following morning Jack and I went to town to purchase the Sierra Vista newspaper, and the article the reporter had written about the ordinance was very much in our favor, but still we were no closer to our goal than we had been before the meeting.

That evening about seven o’clock or so I heard a knock on my door, and at the same time Jack walked in.

We used a neckerchief on the doorknob as a signal in case one of us was with a lady friend. If the signal wasn't there we would just lightly knock and walk in.

As he entered, he had a smile on his face which went from ear to ear. He said that KGUN 9 News from Tucson had called him on the telephone, and they wanted to interview us on the following morning.

I asked Jack where they wanted to meet with us, and he stated that they wanted to meet us in front of the O.K. Corral on Allen Street at eleven o’clock.

He then said, “Only one thing, they want us to ride our horses and wear our guns.”

I thought that this idea was pretty silly, but, on the other hand, if this is what it would take to get our story out to the rest of Arizona, then why not?

We then called Ed and informed him about the interview, and he stated that he would show up but not on horseback. He would show up with his own camera, so he could record anything which took place outside of the interview should the marshal try to pull anything.

The following morning, Jack and I went to town about eight o’clock because we knew that if we told a few key people in Tombstone about our interview there would be a good turn out which would look good for us.

If the people in Tombstone knew there were going to be television cameras involved, they would do anything just so they could see themselves on T.V.

I have to admit; we knew this and took advantage of it.

By ten thirty, Jack and I had saddled up our horses, strapped on our guns, and headed for town. When we arrived, the news crew was still setting up, so we had to wait about ten minutes for the interview to begin.

Our little scheme had worked well. A sizable crowd had showed up and they couldn't wait to be seen in the camera lens.

The interview began with the cameras on us, and the reporter asking questions about our fight with Tombstone over the old ordinance. We explained our position and the legality of the ordinance as well as explaining what had taken place at the council meetings.

The interview was just about to wrap up when the Tombstone marshal pulled up in his squad car. He got out and walked over to us and informed us that the riding of horses in town without a permit was illegal and that we should leave immediately. All this time the cameras were still rolling and you could tell that the marshal wanted no part of it.

With the interview finished we rode straight for home, unsaddled our horses, jumped in my pickup truck and headed for city hall. Once at city hall, we obtained a copy of the ordinance which dealt with horses.

The ordinance read that horses could not be boarded within the city limits, but this was not to preclude the riding or parking thereof. This time we had been threatened with an ordinance which did not even exist!

I looked at Jack and Ed and said, "You see what happens when people do not stand up for their rights. This city has had too much power over its citizens for far too long, and they just make up laws as they go to control the citizens in which ever manner they choose. What’s next! Is Tombstone going to declare that all cowboys have to wear green hats on Thursday?"

It was at that point when we first talked about the possibly contacting the NRA.

We were so angry, that rather than go into town, we decided to just go home and cool off, wait a few days, re-gather our thoughts and lay out a new plan.

If the Tombstone hierarchy thought that we would just go away, they had another thing coming!


-- end of Chapter Five

For Chapter 6 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:

The Last Gun Fight -- The Death of Ordinance Number 9 (Chapter Six)





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