“Haunted by a woman’s scarlet lips! Hated by the brother who called him ‘coward!’ Hunted by the man with the iron fist!”
Reagan plays tough-talking sheriff Frame Johnson in this classic Technicolor western. Having cleaned up the once lawless town of Tombstone, Frame and his two younger brothers, Lute and Jimmy, purchase a ranch outside of Cottonwood, Arizona. Frame promises his girlfriend, Jeannie, that his sharp shooting days are over. But retirement is not in the cards, as the town is being terrorized by rustler-turned-rancher Kurt Durling and his family of thugs. When the Durlings kill Frame’s brother Lute, it’s up to Frame to bring justice to Cottonwood.
Law and Order by Nathan H. Juran (USA, 1953, 80 min.).
Read more about the film
The right to bear arms is a central tenet of contemporary conservatism. With this in mind, one scene in Law and Order is particularly surprising: the one where Frame orders all residents of Cottonwood to surrender their guns until he has restored justice in the town, declaring that even well-meaning civilians should never take the law into their own hands.
In real life, Reagan’s feelings about gun control were complicated. As Governor of California he signed the 1967 Mulford Act, which repealed a law allowing citizens to carry loaded firearms in public. The bill was created in response to the Black Panther Party’s practice of conducting armed cop-watching patrols in Oakland, California. But throughout his presidency in the 80’s, Reagan vehemently opposed handgun control even after he was wounded in a 1981 assassination attempt by John Hinckley, Jr. He even went so far as to try to dissolve the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which enforced laws on gun safety. But two years after he left the oval office, Reagan changed his tune again and became a strong advocate for the Brady Law that would enforce “background checks of firearm buyers for criminal records and histories of mental disturbance.” Reagan explained in a 1991 New York Times op-ed piece that the law was named for his Press Secretary, Jim Brady, who was paralyzed by a bullet during the attempted assassination.