3 accurate predictions about guns in America from an 1881 cartoon.

Ahh, guns. As American as apple pie!

Those fancy firearms are right there in the foundational DNA of our dear country. (Or at least, in the Bill of Rights, which was published 15 years after the official Declaration and a few years after the Constitution itself. These things took time, even back then.)

For all our squabbles about the comma placement and the technical and/or historical meanings of the phrase "well-regulated," it's true that firearms have pretty much always been a part of our great nation's rulebook, whether we like it or not.


In fact, you can see America's deep gun history clearly in this comic, which was published in 1881, almost a century after the Bill of Rights was ratified.

"A Dangerous American Institution — The Free and Untrammeled Revolver" first appeared in 1881 in a popular political and humor magazine called Puck and was written and illustrated by American cartoonist Frederick Burr Opper.

Notice anything familiar about it?

Yup: This comic, created around 135 years ago, created a century after the nation's founding (and about 15 years after the Civil War that almost tore it apart), makes the same criticisms about American gun culture that many people still make today.

Let's take a closer look:

1. Check out the "Pistol Emporium for Cranks" in the top left corner, with a man carrying a letter from the "Divine Commission to Kill."

While our larger understanding of mental health and neurological functions has certainly improved since 1881, this moment in the comic illustrates two particular aspects of the gun violence problem that still haven't changed:

First, it shows our often wildly inaccurate ideas about what "crazy" means and looks like.

And second, it shows the fact that, yes, we need to find a way to keep guns out of the hands of "dangerous people" — but we've never been good at defining what "dangerous" means.

There's a lot of talk in our country about guns and mental health. But unfortunately, it's just not the conversation about guns and mental health that we should be having. 100 years ago, mass violence was about a lot more than mental health, and that's still true today.

2. In the opposite corner of the comic, there's a cop shooting wildly: "The One Man who has a Right to Use it, and who Never Knows How."

Up until the 1840s, towns and cities relied more on individual sheriffs or night watchmen than actual organized municipal police forces. These volunteer law enforcers functioned as a kind of local "militia" — which would of course, give them the right to bear arms.

But as the idea of an armed and trained police units caught on and started to spread through the country, they were mostly employed to round up slaves and keep the working class "in line" and to generally punish the poor. By the 1880s, when this comic was made, police brutality was a serious problem.

In 2016, fatal police brutality is still a serious problem. Modern police training regarding firearms has come under question lately, particularly as it relates to de-escalation, discipline, and background checks. In that regard, Opper's observation that these officers "never know how" to use their guns may have been regretfully prescient.

3. Finally, there's the woman right above the police officer with her revolver, "Practicing for the Coming man."

Self-defense is a commonly cited reason for owning a gun. The data is conflicted over whether gun ownership among women is rising or falling, but either way, that romantic, adventurous vision of faux-chivalrous men protecting women and children — or of women taking care of themselves, with the help of a firearm — still persists.

Here's the thing: Men are actually more likely than women to be victims of random crimes. But women are significantly more likely to be killed by guns and are almost always killed by someone they are intimate with. 93% of women murdered by men were familiar with their killers, and 63% of those women were married to or intimate with the men who killed them. While 1 in 5 women believe a gun could keep them safer, some studies have found that abused women are more likely to be murdered by partners who have access to a firearm — even up to 5 times as likely.

There are obviously lots of problems with toxic masculinity that our culture could and should address. But regardless of how "safe" they might make someone feel, guns don't actually protect women most of the time. That was true in the 1880s, and it's true now.

Our country has been struggling with the same gun violence problems for a long, long time. So let's stop talking and start doing something.

It's time we start collecting data on gun violence and use that information to find common-sense solutions to prevent more bloodshed. It's time to start training our police and holding them accountable for their actions. (On that note, it's time to talk about systemic racism, too.) It's time to reform our destructive ideas of gender roles and find new forms of self-defense that don't endanger people's lives even more.

Simply put: It's time to find solutions to the American epidemic of gun violence. Otherwise, I'm afraid we're just going to keep having these exact same conversations over and over and over again, shrugging off each tragedy with thoughts and prayers while we wait 17 minutes for another one to happen. Because I don't want some other writer to find this article on the Internet archives 150 years in the future and say, "See? This has happening so long, and we still haven't fixed it."

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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