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Old December 29, 2012, 11:30 AM   #60
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Join Date: December 11, 2004
Location: Redwood City, Ca.
Posts: 3,297
The 2nd amendment is not mostly about a militia. It is about the right of individuals to have and keep firearms.

Most of U.S. law comes down to us from the British. There was a long history in England of individuals having the right to have and keep weapons.

In the 12th century Henry the II had obligated all freemen to have certain arms. In the next century Henry III obligated all, serfs and landless farmers included, to have weapons in addition to a knife. The Lords and wealthy were of course armed as were their retainers and hirelings. There were no local professional police in England until the early 1800s so the King expected that when the "hue and cry" was raised against bandits, etc. armed locals would respond.

In 1671 Parliament passed a law which made the right to hunt attached to the amount of property a person owned. It also made hunting firearms illegal except for a wealthy few (which may have been about all who could afford the odd contraptions anyway). There was opposition to this.

In 1686 James II forbid all but Catholics from having firearms. Not such a good idea in a country that had gone 98% to the Church of England and other non Catholic denominations. James was overthrown in 1689, the English Bill of Rights was written which provided "That the Subjects which are Protestants may have Arms for their defense suitable for their conditions, and as allowed by law." Which prevented the King from disarming the population but subordinated the general right to Parliament. It also initiated debate.

In America the colonists watched all this. They considered themselves British citizens. They also considered that they had a "natural", "god given" right to defend themselves. They were armed as a matter of course. Firearms were common and needed. For hunting, against the encroachments of the French, Spanish and Dutch, against Indian wars and attacks. In the slave colonies rebellions were common and escapes as well. The Maroon societies (towns of escaped slaves often intermarried with Native Americans) though not citizens of anything considered their right to be armed important as well.

The right of individuals to be and have weapons including firearms was assumed. In light of what occurred in England it was also cherished.

No one much cherished any "right" to be impressed into an army or militia. The 2nd is primarily about the rights of individuals.

The constitution of Pennsylvania was adopted in 1776. It was the first to use the phrase "to keep and bear arms". It also did not have a militia.


Last edited by tipoc; December 29, 2012 at 11:45 AM.
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