Document Type

Thesis

Date of Degree Completion

Spring 2015

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

Committee Chair

Daniel Herman

Second Committee Member

Brian Carroll

Third Committee Member

Jason Dormady

Abstract

This paper focuses on gun control in San Francisco between 1847 and 1923, from the control of the rowdy men of the gold rush, to the management of the Chinese, to the control of the sale and distribution of firearms. For the purpose of this study, the main sources used to understand public perceptions are newspapers, specifically the Daily Alta California, San Francisco Call, and San Francisco Chronicle. While it is impossible to completely recreate the attitudes towards guns, newspapers provide a window into public opinion, while also providing multiple opinions on the same or similar subjects. In addition, government records provide specific information on municipal and state gun laws passed in the wake of the published opinions. From the first ban on discharging weapons in San Francisco to the first concealed weapons ban, San Franciscans examined their relationship with firearms in the rapidly growing city. As the Chinese population increased, the gun control discourse shifted to include the perceived threat of the Chinese “highbinder,” generated by local newspapers. The conversation was further altered in the early twentieth century as white San Franciscans began criticizing the relationship between society and firearms, and lobbied for statewide gun control.

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