On gun rights, Supreme Court ‘originalists’ don’t look at ‘original’ history of guns

Ah yes, Originalism. A majority of the current conservative members of the U.S. Supreme Court claim to be “originalists” who assert that the Constitution should be interpreted based on the “original intent” of the Framers. According to self-described originalists, Justice Brent Kavanaugh, the Court can glean this intent by looking at the “text, history, and traditions” of the Constitutional provision in question. We can see how these originalists apply their theory in the recent Supreme Court gun rights case of New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, which deals with New York state’s restriction on carrying a concealed handgun in public. What does the text, history, and tradition have to say about this issue? The text – the Second Amendment – states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” This is ambiguous and doesn’t really address whether a person can carry a concealed weapon in public. What do history and tradition teach? How did governments deal with guns in the new nation? There were quite vigorous controls over weapons in the colonies during the Revolution, and most were adopted when the colonies became states. Some states mandated that every able-bodied man of legal age own a “militarily useful” weapon. Most required an accounting of these weapons – through registration and reporting to the government – or mandated a “muster” of all able-bodied men with their weapons. New […]

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