Welcome to Dodge CityrnThe Gun on the Frontierrnby Dave KopelrnOn the American frontier of previous centuries, the possessionrnof a firearm was often a key to survival. In this regard,rnthe frontier of 20th-century America, although difiFerentrngeographically, is very much like earlier frontiers.rnAs different waves of Europeans arrived in North America,rneach took a distinct approach to trading guns with the Indians.rnThe Dutch, settling in New Netherlands (now lower New YorkrnState), came from one of history’s greatest trading empires.rnDutch settlers of the Hudson River Valley bartered guns to thernMohawk tribes. In 1543, some of the Mohawk launched a twoyearrnwar against Dutch settlements, but they spared the Hudsonrncommunities that continued to sell guns to the Indians.rnThe Dutch attempted to license gun traders in 1650, hopingrnto shut off the Indians’ supply. The West India Companyrnprotested, arguing that Indians would pay a black-market pricernso high that controls were impossible. In 1656, the governmentrndecreed that settlers could possess only matchlock rifles;rnmodern flintlock rifles, which were more reliable and easierrnand faster to fire, were banned. A death penalty for selling gunsrnto the Indians was enacted, but the law failed to stop the trade.rnNo matter what the Dutch did, the natives had a ready supplyrnof gims from the French. One firearm, usually a musket,rnwas worth 20 beaver pelts. The main partners of the Frenchrnwere the Ottawa (whose name means “to trade”), who broughtrnguns even deeper into America, and shared in French prosperityrn—much to the annoyance of their rivals, the Iroquois.rnIn the early 17th century, the Iroquois nation allied with thernDutch settlers in the Hudson Valley or with the nearby British.rnBy mid-century, the heavily armed Iroquois began a 60-yearrncampaign called the Beaver Wars to destroy the trade of Francernand her Indian allies, especially the Ottawa. The Iroquois’rnDave Kopel is an adjunct professor of law at the New YorkrnUniversity School of Law and research director with the IndependencernInstitute. This article is adapted in part from his bookrnThe Samurai, the Mountie, and the Cowboy: Should AmericarnAdopt the Cun Control Policies of Other Democracies?rnmain objective was to replace the Ottawa as middlemen, tradingrnbeaver pelts for European guns. The French and Ottawarnprevailed, however, and their trade continued to expand.rnThe war confirmed to the governor of New France, thernComte de Frontenac, that friendship with Indian traders wasrnthe best policy. Building an empire of commerce thatrnstretched deep into what would become the Louisiana Territory,rnFrontenac did everything possible to supply the Indiansrnwith guns. Because the gun made big-game hunting so muchrnmore profitable and because many Indian tribes were involvedrnin wars with each other, firearms were the most valuable commodityrna European could offer. The French explorer La Sallernobserved: “The savages take better care of us French than ofrntheir own children. From us only can they get guns andrngoods.”rnUnlike the English (and later the Americans), the Frenchrndid not settle the land with waves of immigrant farmers. Tradernwas what the French wanted, and the sparse population necessaryrnto trade throughout the Louisiana Territory and Canadarndid not threaten the Indians. Thanks to the success of theirrncommerce with the Indians, the French, coming down fromrnCanada, reached western Pennsylvania and Ohio before Englishrnsettlers from the Atlantic coast found their way throughrnthe gaps in the Appalachian Mountains.rnBut with the victory of Britain and its colonies in the Frenchrnand Indian War of 1754-63, the French were expelled fromrnmuch of North America. In a himdred years, France had soldrnthe Indians 200,000 guns. Although there were no more imports,rnFrench traders within formerly French territory keptrntrading their existing stock of guns to the Indians.rnExploring the southern part of North America, the Spaniardsrnenslaved the Indians to expand the Spanish Empire. Inrn1501, only nine years after Columbus’s discovery of the NewrnWorld, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella banned the sale ofrnguns to Indians. Many Indians in Florida and the Southwest,rnthough, stole guns from the Spanish or bought them through arntrading network linked to the French. The enslaved Pueblo In-rn20/CHRONICLESrnrnrn