In case you thought “gun control”was a recent problem…

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Flintlock pistols, ca. Late 17th Century, France (Pinterest).

‘The new accessibility of pistols across social classes turned an already dangerous city into an even more deadly one. The product of the sixteenth-century discovery of saltpeter, guns revolutionized early European warfare overnight. By the 1640s the French had perfected flintlock-firing technology, which made guns much lighter, smaller, and less expensive to produce than traditional wheel-lock guns and rifles. Armed with pocket-size pistols under their cloaks, thieves became bolder. Parisians looking to protect their homes raced to buy handguns, making the city all the more unsafe.

In response to the rising violence, the Crown issued an edict in 1660 calling for the ban of all weapons including—and especially—handguns, by anyone other than soldiers, police officers, judges, and noblemen. The law did not have the desired effect. Another ordinance issued six years later repeated the 1660 law nearly verbatim. It also added that all handguns needed to be conspicuous, heavy, and with barrels that were at least fifteen inches long. Any person in possession of such a weapon was required to carry a lantern or a torch as he moved through the streets at night, so both law officials and citizens could see that the person was armed. Judging from the violence that filled the city after dark, few followed this mandate either.’

– Holly Tucker, City of Light, City of Poison: Murder, Magic, and the First Police Chief of Paris

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