Regression: Arkansas’s surprising history as a gun safety state

Regression: Arkansas’s surprising history as a gun safety state

Maria Lysenko Once upon a time, before the ascent of the National Rifle Association, when politics was not a full-time job and men sought election to public office so they could govern, a time before 24/7 news coverage — not to mention social media — changed the definition of newsworthy while altering the whole nature of civic and civil discourse, the state of Arkansas found itself at the center of a legal dispute over the right to bear arms. And though it’s hard for us to imagine today, 179 years ago, the state of Arkansas threw its efforts behind keeping guns off the streets. State v. Buzzard came before the newly established Arkansas Supreme Court in 1842, and offers one of the earliest and most comprehensive analyses of the Second Amendment. The case arrived at Arkansas’s highest court on appeal from a Chicot Circuit Court trial, where judges ruled the Arkansas prohibition against the concealed carrying of weapons was unconstitutional. The state of Arkansas, admitted to the union only three years before, appealed, and by a 2-1 vote the state high court overturned the Chicot Circuit Court ruling. Arkansas’s Supreme Court upheld the law that prohibited people from carrying hidden guns in public. Chief Justice Daniel Ringo wrote the majority opinion in what is a heady and philosophical examination of the nature of government itself. With the U.S. Constitution still barely 50 years old and Arkansas’s less than a decade old, the roles and responsibilities the government was to […]

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