American Idiots: Guns in Congress is as Dumb Today as it was in 1842

Lauren Boebert (R-CO) struts through Washington, D.C., in a January 2021 campaign ad proclaiming the awesomeness of packing heat in Congress. In 1842, author Charles Dickens found it astonishing during a visit to the United States that American politicians thought nothing of bringing guns onto the floors of their national and state legislative bodies. Dickens pointed to the 1842 Arndt-Vineyard shooting on the floor of the Wisconsin Territorial Council in Madison as proof that American individualism had become conflated with the “freedom to shoot or knife any other American.” (Photo: Boebert Campaign Video on Twitter.)
James Vineyard pulls his six-shooter on fellow legislator Charles Arndt following a heated exchange on the floor of the Wisconsin Territorial Council in Madison on Feb. 11, 1842. Vineyard shot Arndt at nearly point-blank range through the heart, killing him instantly. British author Charles Dickens, visiting America at the time, was appalled by the event, as well as the common practice of allowing firearms into legislative bodies throughout the country.
Vest worn by Charles Arndt on Feb. 11, 1842, when he was gunned down and killed by fellow legislator James Vineyard on the floor of the Wisconsin Territorial Council. The blood-stained garment has a bullet-hole in the chest. It remains on display at the Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, where it serves as Exhibit A in the prohibition of guns in legislative bodies. (Photo: Wisconsin Historical Society)
Charles Arndt, a young, dashing, lawyer from the East Coast, was a rising star in Wisconsin territorial politics before he was shot and killed on the floor of the Wisconsin Territorial Council in 1842 at the age of 30 following a heated exchange with fellow legislator James Vineyard.

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Craig K. Collins

Craig K. Collins

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Author of Midair (Lyons Press, 2016) and Thunder in the Mountains (Lyons Press, 2014). At work on a novel, as well as a book of historical non-fiction.