Guest op-ed: Individual gun rights are relatively new

Guest op-ed: Individual gun rights are relatively new

Individual gun rights should never be confused with Second Amendment rights. Ratification of the Bill of Rights (BR), including the Second Amendment, was completed Dec. 15, 1791, when Virginia, the 11th state, approved it. Did that adoption of the BR guarantee an individual right to gun ownership the next year, or the next decade or even the next century? Absolutely not. Of course, the BR created no individual rights since it placed no restrictions on state actions. If the framers had intended to create individual rights somewhere, the BR would have used the words employed in Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution: “No state shall…”. Since the framers failed to use those words, or words to that effect, individual gun rights were enjoyed only at the pleasure of an individual’s state — as was religious liberty. A unanimous Supreme Court made this clear in the United States versus Cruikshank in 1876 — a full century after our Declaration of Independence. The court held: “The second amendment declares that it shall not be infringed; but this, as has been seen, means no more than it shall not be infringed by Congress. This is one of the amendments that has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the national government.” This enabled states to criminalize gun ownership and even Bowie knife ownership. In 1983 (Quilici v. Morton Grove), the Court left intact a municipal ordinance banning handgun possession. In sum, through the 1700s, 1800s and 1900s, there were […]

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