Does a Medieval English Statute Supersede the Second Amendment?

In my first post, I cited St. George Tucker’s comments about the commonality of arms carrying in the early American Republic. Tucker in the same discussion questioned whether English limitations on the right to keep and bear arms translated to America, “where the right to bear arms is recognized and secured in the constitution itself,” and he elsewhere emphasized that, unlike in England, the right of the people to keep and bear arms recognized in the Second Amendment “was without any qualification as to their condition or degree.” Tucker’s writings indicate that the Second Amendment was understood to expand upon and strengthen the protection of the right to keep and bear arms in important ways. It therefore will not do for opponents of robust Second Amendment protections to draw a one-to-one correspondence from restrictions on the right in England to the scope of the right in America. Yet that is what New York and its amici seek to do in their reliance on the 14th Century Statute of Northampton, enacted in 1328, during the reign of Edward III. Not even in England, however, was the Statute of Northampton the broad prohibition on carry that New York says it was, and it certainly was not understood to be so in Founding-era America. The Statute of Northampton forbade any person to come before the King’s justices or ministers “with force and arms,” “nor bring no force in affray of the peace, nor to go nor ride armed” in fairs, markets, before […]

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