Original intent and the Second Amendment

Original intent and the Second Amendment

In the wake of every gun-toting madman, and an ever-expanding body count, comes a host of voices raised in heated debate about the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms — as if the country’s founders can be held responsible for the carnage taking place in the nation’s schools, homes and public places. As a matter of fact, this topic never came up at the Constitutional Convention, that hot summer of 1787. There was talk about the danger of a standing army, to be sure, but the right to own firearms, as it is enshrined in the Second Amendment, came out of the various state ratifying conventions. According to the documentary History of the Bill of Rights , four states called for such an amendment. The proposals from New York and North Carolina were essentially the same as that from Virginia: “That the people have a right to keep and bear arms; that a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state.” Only a proposal of the Pennsylvania convention included language about the right to self-defense. Significantly, this was also balanced out by the right of the community to protect itself from “danger of public injury”: “That the people have a right to bear arms for the defense of themselves and their own state, or the United States, or for the purpose of killing game; and no law shall be passed for disarming […]

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