A musket from the 18th century, when the Second Amendment was written, and an assault rifle of today.Credit…Top, MPI, via Getty Images, bottom. Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty

In Anthony Mann’s 1950 western “Winchester ’73,” a rare and much-desired Winchester rifle brings misery and death to the unlucky souls who manage to bring it into their possession. In the West as brought to you by Mann — and his star, a troubled and morally ambiguous Jimmy Stewart — the gun isn’t a symbol of freedom as much as it is a curse, destined to ruin everyone who covets its power.

It was a theme echoed that year in the Joseph H. Lewis noir “Gun Crazy,” a take of sorts on the story of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. Our protagonists in this film are two young people so enamored of the power of guns — and the freedom they seem to provide — that they go on a wanton spree of theft and murder. It ends, predictably, with their own deaths.

In both films, guns become […]

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