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The Second Amendment (Amendment II) to the United States Constitution is the part of the United States Bill of Rights that protects a right to keep and bear arms. The Second Amendment was adopted on December 15, 1791, along with the rest of the Bill of Rights. The American Bar Association has noted that there is more disagreement and less understanding about this right than of any other current issue regarding the Constitution.
|halign = center|
|award2= Faced with the problems of governing the
newly United States due to deficiencies with the Articles of
Confederation, in March 1785 a number of people from Virgina and
Maryland met at the Mount Vernon
Conference to resolve these weaknesses. This was followed with
another meeting at Annopolis
the following year which called for a convention of the thirteen
states to fix these serious weaknesses critical for the country to
survive. Major problems included the inability to provide security
against foreign invasion or to check quarrels between states or
insurrection within states, a failure to provide for uniform
interstate commerce, and a failure to provide a national authority
paramount over the states. It was agreed to schedule a meeting in
Philadelphia to resolve these problems in May 1787—today often
called the Constitutional
It quickly became apparent that the solution to the first problem, security from invasion and security from interstate conflict and insurrections, would require shifting control of the states' militias to the federal congress and also giving it the power to raise a standing army. This became codified in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution: These proposed new federal powers encountered strong distrust among a minority of representatives who were concerned about the risks inherent in centralized power, and they sought protection against these risks. A debate about this conflict ensued.
Federalists including James Madison initially argued that a bill of rights was unnecessary, asserting that the federal government could never raise a standing army powerful enough to overcome a militia. Similarly, federalist Noah Webster argued that an armed populace would have no trouble resisting the potential threat to liberty of a standing army. Anti-federalists advocated amending the Constitution with clearly defined and enumerated rights, in order to provide more explicit constraints on the new government and protect against a risk of the new federal government disarming the state militias, Several proponents counter-argued that by listing only certain rights, other unlisted rights would fail to be protected. Amidst this debate, a compromise was reached. The majority agreed to ratify the proposed new Constitution, including the shift to federal control of the states' militia and creation of a standing army, while also agreeing to consider the implementation of an itemized bill of rights at the first session of the new federal Congress. The Constitution was declared ratified June 21, 1788, when nine of the original thirteen states had ratified it. The remaining four states later followed suit, although the last two states ratified after Congress passed the Bill of Rights. James Madison drafted what ultimately became the United States Bill of Rights, which was proposed to the first Congress on June 8, 1789 and came into effect on December 15, 1791.
Conflict and compromise in Congress, the Bill of RightsJames Madison's initial proposal for a bill of rights was brought to the floor of the House of Representatives on June 8, 1789, during the first session of Congress. The initial proposed passage relating to arms was: On July 21, Madison again raised the issue of his Bill and proposed a select committee be created to report on it. The House voted in favor of Madison's motion, and the Bill of Rights entered committee for review. The committee returned to the House a reworded version of the Second Amendment on July 28. On August 17, that version was read into the Journal:
The Second Amendment was debated and modified during sessions of the House on in late August of 1789. These debates revolved primarily around risk of "mal-administration of the government" using the "religiously scrupulous" clause to destroy the militia as Great Britain had attempted to destroy the militia at the commencement of the American Revolution. These concerns were addressed by modifying the final clause, and on August 24, the House sent the following version to the U.S. Senate:The next day, August 25, the Senate received the Amendment from the House and entered it into the Senate Journal. When the Amendment was transcribed, the semicolon in the religious exemption portion was changed to a comma by the Senate scribe: By this time, the proposed right to keep and bear arms was in a separate amendment, instead of being in a single amendment together with other proposed rights such as the due process right. As a Representative explained, this change allowed each amendment to "be passed upon distinctly by the States." On September 4, the Senate voted to change the language of the Second Amendment by removing the definition of militia, and striking the conscientious objector clause:
The Senate returned to this Amendment for a final time on September 9. A proposal to insert the words "For the common defence" next to the words "Bear Arms" was defeated. The Senate then slightly modified the language and voted to return the Bill of Rights to the House. The final version passed by the Senate was:
The House voted on September 21, 1789 to accept the changes made by the Senate, but the Amendment as finally entered into the House journal contained the additional words "necessary to"::
On December 15, 1791, the first ten amendments (the Bill of Rights), having been ratified by three-fourths of the states, were appended to the Constitution.
The militia in early United States historyIn the first couple decades following the adoption of the Second Amendment public opposition to a standing army persisted, a widely held opinion among the minority Anti-Federalists and to a lesser extent among the majority Federalists. This opinion also extended to opposition to a professional armed police force, with the responsibility to carry out local ordinances falling to sheriffs in counties and constables and night watchmen in cities and towns. These officials were sometimes compensated, but more often served as a civic duty without payment. In these early decades with rare exceptions these full time law enforcement officers were not armed with firearms, but rather were armed only with clubs. In large emergencies a call up was issued for the posse comitatus, militia companies, or vigilantes to assume law enforcement duties and these groups were much more likely to be armed with firearms. The Uniform Militia Act of 1792 obliged every free able-bodied white male citizen between the ages of 18 and 45 to be included in the national militia. It also required these men to provide their own arms and ammunition. In practice individual acquisition and maintenance of rifles and muskets to be held ready for militia duty proved problematic, with compliance estimates ranging between 10 and 65 percent of militiamen bringing their private arms to the militia musters. Additionally, compliance with the Uniform Militia Act of 1792 gradually fell into disfavor and disrepute. The State legislatures granted increasing numbers of exemptions to universal militia obligation, with exemptions granted to clergy, conscientious objectors, teachers, students, jurors, mariners and ferrymen. While in practice, the remainder of able bodied white men remained obligated for service, an increasing number of people simply did not or could not show up for militia duty. The penalty of for failing to show up for duty was enforced only sporadically and selectively.
The first test of the militia system occurred in July 1794, when a group of disaffected Pennsylvania farmers rebelled against federal tax collectors whom they viewed as illegitimate tools of tyrannical power. Initial attempts of the four nearby states to raise a militia to be nationalized to suppress this insurrection proved inadequate. When officials resorted to drafting men, they faced resistance to a draft. The rank and file that resulted from this effort to raise a militia consisted mainly of draftees or paid substitutes and the poor of society who enlisted not out of duty but instead for the enlistment bonus payments. The officers who responded to the militia call up were of a higher quality and had responded out of a sense of civic duty and patriotism, but were generally critical of the rank and file. Most of the 13,000 rank and file lacked their own weapons and the war department had to provide nearly two-thirds of them with guns. In October, President George Washington and General Light Horse Harry Lee marched on the 7,000 rebels who conceded without fighting. The aftermath of this experience using a militia for national defense lead to criticism of the self-armed citizen concept to provide for arming of a universal militia system. Secretary of War Henry Knox and President John Adams in the following years lobbied the Congress to establish federal armories to hold weapons which were mostly imported and to encourage the domestic gunsmiths to increase local production. This degradation of the militia persisted, and within twenty years as result, the poor performance of the militia during the War of 1812 resulted in several wartime setbacks including being cited as the cause of the sacking of Washington DC and the burning of the White House in 1814.
Early commentaryThe earliest published commentary on the Second Amendment by a major constitutional theorist was by St. George Tucker. He annotated a five-volume edition of Sir William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England, a critical legal reference for early American attorneys published in 1803.
In footnotes 40 and 41 of the Commentaries, Tucker stated that the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment was not subject to the restrictions that were part of English law: "The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. Amendments to C. U. S. Art. 4, and this without any qualification as to their condition or degree, as is the case in the British government." and "Whoever examines the forest, and game laws in the British code, will readily perceive that the right of keeping arms is effectually taken away from the people of England." Blackstone himself also commented on English game laws, Vol. II, p. 412, "that the prevention of popular insurrections and resistance to government by disarming the bulk of the people, is a reason oftener meant than avowed by the makers of the forest and game laws." Blackstone discussed the right of self-defense in a separate section of his treatise on the common law of crimes. Tucker's annotations for that latter section did not mention the Second Amendment but cited the standard works of English jurists such as Hawkins.
Further, Tucker criticized the English Bill of Rights for limiting gun ownership to the very wealthy, leaving the populace effectively disarmed, and expressed the hope that Americans "never cease to regard the right of keeping and bearing arms as the surest pledge of their liberty."
The orthodox view of the meaning of the Second Amendment was articulated by Joseph Story in his influential Commentaries on the Constitution. In his view the meaning of the Amendment was clear:
In this quote, Story describes a militia as the "natural defence of a free country," both against foreign foes, domestic revolts and usurpation by rulers. The book regards the militia as a "moral check" against both usurpation and the arbitrary use of power, while expressing distress at the growing indifference of the American people to maintaining such an organized militia, which could lead to the undermining of the protection of the Second Amendment.
Abolitionist Lysander Spooner, commenting on bills of rights, stated that the object of all bills of rights is to assert the rights of individuals against the government and that the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms was in support of the right to resist government oppression, as the only security against the tyranny of government lies in forcible resistance to injustice, for injustice will certainly be executed, unless forcibly resisted. Spooner's theory provided the intellectual foundation for John Brown and other radical abolitionists who believed that arming slaves was not only morally justified, but entirely consistent with the Second Amendment. An express connection between this right and the Second Amendment was drawn by Lysander Spooner who commented that a "right of resistance" is protected by both the right to trial by jury and the Second Amendment.
Later commentaryTwo grammatical descriptions of the Second Amendment have been historically discussed.
In one description, known to grammarians as an ablative absolute construction, the Second Amendment has been considered formed with an opening justification phrase or qualifying clause, followed by a declarative clause where the opening phrase modifies the main clause much as an adjective would modify a noun.Under this interpretation, the opening phrase is considered essential as a pre-condition for the main clause. This was a grammar structure that was common during that era. This grammatical description is considered by some to be consistent with the concept of the Second Amendment as protecting a collective right to firearms for members serving in a select militia.
Another description of the Second Amendment has it being grammatically formed with an opening "prefatory clause" or amplifying clause followed by an "operative clause", meaning that the opening phrase is meant as a non-exclusive, example reason for the amendment. This description is consistent with the concept of the Second Amendment as protecting a "modified individual rights view" of the right. In Heller, the Supreme Court endorsed this description of the Second Amendment. Although the Second Amendment is the only Constitutional amendment that has a prefatory clause, such constructions were widely used elsewhere.
Yet another grammatical interpretation of the amendment holds that the first clause is simply explanatory and not a qualifying or an amplifying clause. So while militia service is the stated justification for protecting the right to keep and bear arms, it is not a pre-condition on that right. This is believed because the later clause of the amendment still guarantees the right to "the people," and, therefore, it cannot be limited to only members of a select militia. This style of syntax was common for the time and similar language can also be found in the Copyright Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
In the wake of Sanford Levinson's 1989 Yale Law Journal article on the Second Amendment, there was renewed scholarly interest in the Second Amendment. Scholars in law, history and political science weighed in, including Akhil Reed Amar, Saul Cornell, Leonard Levy, Jack Rakove, Laurence Tribe, William Van Alstyne and Garry Wills. By 1999, the weight of scholarship had appeared to shift towards an interpretation of the Second Amendment with an individual rights component.
According to Saul Cornell, in recent decades Second Amendment scholarship has taken the form of “law office history”, a form of advocacy scholarship intended to influence the way courts decide constitutional questions. This legal scholarship has influenced the way briefs are written and also may have been used by judges when deciding a case.
Similarly, also according to Saul Cornell, the simplified choices of only two models, of the older individual right interpretation and of the later collective right interpretation of the Second Amendment, were both in error: "The original understanding of the Second Amendment was neither an individual right of self-defense nor a collective right of the states, but rather a civic right that guaranteed that citizens would be able to keep and bear those arms needed to meet their legal obligation to participate in a well-regulated militia." David Thomas Konig has also expressed this viewpoint, saying "No individual right existed unrelated to service in a well-regulated militia; no effective militia could serve its purpose without an armed citizenry." He also stated that the collective and individual right interpretations are really "products of present-day normative agendas that have polarized the debate into two competing and largely ahistorical models."
In contrast, senior NRA attorney David Hardy specifically dismisses Saul Cornell's civic right model as the overarching reason, while also criticizing Saul Cornell's tendency to cite only writers that support militia interpretations of the Second Amendment through omitting mention of the works of additional early writers that spoke instead of a multiplicity of reasons for the Second Amendment. According to David Hardy, the civic duty is only one of several purposes intended by the Second Amendment.
The meaning and scope of the right to keep and bear arms has been described as among the most controversial of the rights codified in the Bill of Rights. Similarly, in his book, Out of Range, Mark Tushnet concluded there was no clear meaning of the Second Amendment.
Meaning of "to keep and bear arms"The people's right to have their own arms for their defense is described in the philosophical and political writings of Aristotle, Cicero, John Locke, Machiavelli, the English Whigs and others. Though possessing arms appears to be distinct from "bearing" them, the possession of arms is recognized as necessary for and a logical precursor to the bearing of arms.
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines the phrase To bear arms as "to serve as a soldier, do military service, fight." The OED dates this use to 1795. Garry Wills, an author and history professor at Northwestern University, has written of the origin of the term bear arms:
Garry Wills also cites Greek and Latin etymology:
Don Kates, a civil liberties lawyer, cites historic English usage describing the "right to keep and bear their private arms."
Both military and nonmilitary usage of the phrase is found in the Pennsylvania "minority report" published after the ratifying convention
Historian Jack Rakove, in an amicus brief signed by a dozen leading historians filed in District of Columbia. v. Heller, identifies several problems with the Kates and Blodgett-Ford argument. Coxe's reference describes the ownership of weapons, not the purpose for which the weapons were owned. Thus, privately owned weapons were state mandated as a means of meeting one's legal obligation to contribute to public defense. Other historians have noted that the Second Amendment was as much a civic obligation as it was a right in the modern sense. The meaning of the Pennsylvania dissent of the minority is even more hotly disputed. Historians have also noted that this text, written by the Anti-Federalist minority of a single state, was hastily written, never actually reached the floor of the convention, and was never emulated by any other ratification convention.
Richard Uviller and William G. Merkel have argued that prior to and through the 18th century, the expression "bear arms" appeared primarily in military contexts, as opposed to the use of firearms by civilians. According to Uviller and Merkel:
Uviller and Merkel's conclusion is questioned by Clayton Cramer and Joseph Olson, who argue that while previous scholarly examination of the phrase "bear arms" in English language documents published around the time of the Constitution does show almost entirely military uses or contexts, that this perhaps is reflective of a selection bias problem arising from the use of a limited selection of government documents that overwhelmingly refer to matters of military service. According to Cramer and Olson:
Mark Tushnet claims that "bear arms," when used separately from "keep" in the late 18th century, could refer to hunting or other activities. On the other hand, he also concludes that when the terms are used together, they specifically refer to weapons in connection with military use.
Meaning of "well regulated militia"The term "well regulated" in the Second Amendment has been interpreted as a usage of the term "regulated" to mean "disciplined" or "trained". On what constitutes a well regulated militia, Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist No. 29:
Some scholars, such as Saul Cornell, have contended that modern militia movements are not what could be considered "well regulated", since they often lack fixed leadership and may have unstructured training regimes.
Judicial interpretationsFor almost a century following the ratification of the Bill of Rights, the intended meaning and application of the Second Amendment drew less interest than it does in modern times. The vast majority of regulation was done by states, and the first case law on weapons regulation dealt with state interpretations of the Second Amendment. The notable exception to this general rule was Houston v. Moore, , where the Supreme Court mentioned the Second Amendment in an aside, but Justice Story "misidentified" it as the "5th Amendment."
U.S. Supreme CourtThe primary U.S. Supreme Court Second Amendment cases include United States v. Cruikshank (1875), Presser v. Illinois (1886), Miller v. Texas (1894), Robertson v. Baldwin (1897), United States v. Miller (1939) and District of Columbia v. Heller (2008). A key legal question is whether the Second Amendment is held to apply to state and local governments by way of the Fourteenth Amendment. Cruikshank and Presser predate the modern criteria by which it is determined whether a particular part of the Bill of Rights applies to state and local governments. Because Heller did not make such a determination, it remains an open question.
Dred Scott v. SandfordIn the case of Dred Scott v. Sandford, , the Supreme Court's decision denying citizenship to former slaves and their descendants included the following relevant wording:
The Court was referring here to the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the original unamended Constitution. This is to be distinguished from the Privileges or Immunities Clause, which was adopted as part of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868.
United States v. CruikshankThe Second Amendment attracted serious judicial attention with the Reconstruction era case of United States v. Cruikshank, . In Cruikshank, the defendants were white men who had killed more than sixty blacks known as the Colfax massacre and had been charged with conspiring to prevent blacks from exercising their right to bear arms. The Court dismissed the charges, holding that the Bill of Rights restricted Congress but not private individuals. The Court concluded, "[f]or their protection in its enjoyment, the people must look to the States."
The Court stated that "[t]he Second Amendment…has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the national government…". Likewise, the Court held that there was no state action in this case, and therefore the Fourteenth Amendment was not applicable:
Thus, the Court held a federal anti-Ku-Klux-Klan statute to be unconstitutional as applied in that case.
Regarding the Second Amendment and the incorporation doctrine, the Supreme Court, in District of Columbia v. Heller, said in 2008:
Regarding the assertion in Heller that Cruikshank said the First Amendment did not apply to the states, Professor David Rabban wrote that the Cruikshank Court "never specified whether the First Amendment contains 'fundamental rights' protected by the Fourteenth Amendment against state action....”
Presser v. IllinoisIn Presser v. Illinois, , Herman Presser headed a German-American paramilitary shooting organization and was arrested for leading a parade group of 400 men, training and drilling with military weapons with declared intention to fight, through the streets of Chicago as violation of Illinois law which prohibits the public drilling and parading in military style without a permit from the Governor.
At his trial, Presser argued that the state of Illinois had violated his Second Amendment rights. In rejecting his case the Supreme Court reaffirmed Cruikshank, holding that the Second Amendment restricts only the authority of the Congress to maintain the public security. This decision upheld the states authority to regulate the militia and that citizens had no right to create their own militias or to own weapons for semi-military purposes.
Miller v. TexasIn Miller v. Texas, , Franklin Miller was convicted and sentenced to be executed for shooting a police officer to death using an unlicensed handgun, in violation of Texas law. Mr. Miller sought to have his conviction overturned, claiming his Second Amendment rights were violated and that the Bill of Rights should be incorporated to state law. The Supreme Court ruled in line with Presser and Cruikshank that the Second Amendment did not apply to state laws such as the Texas law for which Mr. Miller has been convicted.
Robertson v. BaldwinIn Robertson v. Baldwin, , the Court stated that laws regulating concealed arms did not infringe upon the right to keep and bear arms, and thus were not a violation of the Second Amendment. Specifically, the Supreme Court stated:
United States v. MillerIn United States v. Miller, , the Supreme Court heard arguments from only the Solicitor General and rejected a Second Amendment challenge to the National Firearms Act prohibiting the interstate transportation of unregistered Title II weapons: A demurrer had been filed, which alleged:A federal district court, ruled Section 11 of the National Firearms Act of 1934 to be in violation of the Second Amendment's restriction forbidding such infringement and so it quashed the indictment.In a unanimous opinion, authored by Justice McReynolds, reversed the District Court decision stating that: The Court further explained:
Miller is cited by gun-rights advocates, because they claim that the Court ruled that the Second Amendment protected the right to keep arms that are part of "ordinary military equipment." It has also been cited by gun control advocates because they claim that the Court did not consider the question of whether the sawed-off shotgun in the case would be an applicable weapon for personal defense, instead looking solely at the weapon's suitability for the "common defense." Law professor Andrew McClurg states, "The only certainty about Miller is that it failed to give either side a clear-cut victory. Most modern scholars recognize this fact."
District of Columbia v. HellerThe Supreme Court, in a landmark decision, in District of Columbia v. Heller, 128 S.Ct. 2783 (2008) ruled that "[t]he Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home" and "that the District’s ban on handgun possession in the home violates the Second Amendment, as does its prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense."
To clarify that its ruling does not invalidate a broad range of existing firearm laws, the Court said:
The Court held that the amendment's prefatory clause serves to clarify the operative clause, but does not limit or expand the scope of the operative clause.
The dissenting opinion, written by Justice Stevens, stated that:
This dissent called the Opinion of the Court "strained and unpersuasive" and said that the right to possess a firearm exists only in relation to the militia and that the D.C. laws constitute permissible regulation.
Justice Scalia, in the Opinion of the Court, called Justice Stevens' interpretation of the phrase "to keep and bear arms" incoherent and grotesque.
Justice Breyer, in his own dissent and speaking only for himself, stated:
Regarding the term "well regulated", the U.S. Supreme Court said in District of Columbia v. Heller:
Justice Scalia, writing for the court, quoted Spooner from The Unconstitutionality of Slavery as saying that the right to bear arms was necessary for those who wanted to take a stand against slavery.
The majority opinion in Heller also stated that:
The dissenting justices were unpersuaded by this argument.
McDonald v. ChicagoOn September 30, 2009, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in, and so decided to review, McDonald v. Chicago. This case closely parallels NRA v. Chicago. A central issue before the Court will be whether the Second Amendment applies to the states.
Federal circuit court cases after HellerSince Heller, more than eighty other lawsuits challenging gun control laws under the Second Amendment have been decided in federal court. Five federal lawsuits were filed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) requesting the Second Amendment be applied to state and local governments via the Fourteenth Amendment. Four of these lawsuits were dropped following the repeal of the local gun restrictions at issue in those cases. The fifth, NRA v. Chicago, has been rejected by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. A similar challenge was rejected by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Maloney v. Rice. In Nordyke v. King, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, sitting en banc, has not yet ruled on whether the Second Amendment applies to state and local governments via the Fourteenth Amendment. Cass Sunstein, stated in a Harvard Law Review article that, "[t]he [Supreme] Court will proceed cautiously, upholding most of the [firearms] laws now on the books and invalidating only the most draconian limitations. It is very early, to be sure, but thus far, the lower courts are taking exactly this path."
On September 29, 2009, the Supreme Court discussed whether to review NRA v. Chicago. The Court instead granted certiorari in, and so decided to review, McDonald v. Chicago, a case that closely parallels NRA v. Chicago.
The following are post-Heller cases, along with summary notes:
Early state court decisionsSee also: Early commentary in state courts
Historians describe that the original interpretation of the Second Amendment was a "civic duty" interpretation, whereas the "individual rights" interpretation did not emerge until several decades after the Second Amendment was drafted, and was later followed by the "collective rights" interpretation. As the 19th century unfolded, two different models emerged from early state jurisprudence: one based on an individual rights view and the other on a collective rights view.
The first state court decision resulting from the "right to bear arms" issue was Bliss v. Commonwealth, which involved a provision of Kentucky’s state constitution that used language quite different from that of the Second Amendment, and that has since been amended to allow control of concealed weapons. The state court held that "the right of citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the state must be preserved entire, ..." Many years later, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit would cite Bliss in the case of United States v. Emerson:
In contrast to the Bliss decision, a concurring opinion in the 1842 Arkansas Supreme Court case of State v. Buzzard said that the Second Amendment of the federal Constitution did not guarantee a right of individuals to possess firearms; however, according to gun rights advocate David Kopel that concurring opinion in Buzzard expressed a view that was unusual in the nineteenth century.
Joel Prentiss Bishop’s influential Commentaries on the Law of Statutory Crimes (1873) took Buzzard's militia-based interpretation, a view that Bishop characterized as the “Arkansas doctrine", as the orthodox view of the right to bear arms in American law.
Political scientist Earl Kruschke has categorized both Bliss and Buzzard as being “cases illustrating the individual view.” Professor Eugene Volokh revealed, in the California Political Review, that a statement in a concurring opinion in Buzzard was the only support for a collective right view of the right to keep and bear arms in the 19th century.
In Nunn v State of Georgia, 1 Kelly 243 (1846), the Georgia Supreme Court stated that any federal or state law prohibiting the right to bear arms openly of any person, in the smallest degree, was in conflict with the Constitution and therefore void. The Georgia Supreme Court also stated:
Nunn had also alleged that the state law barring concealed carry, had violated the Second Amendment. Concerning that, the Georgia Supreme Court had said:
With the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, the question of the rights of former slaves to bear arms came to the attention of the country. Akhil Reed Amar noted, in the Yale Law Journal, the common law basis for the Bill of Rights, which includes the Second Amendment, "following John Randolph Tucker's famous oral argument in the 1887 Chicago anarchist Haymarket riot case, Spies v. Illinois":
Another point of disagreement concerns the point at which regulation or prohibition of firearms constitutes infringement. All federal courts, including the Supreme Court, have found that reasonable firearm regulation is allowable.
In 1905, the Kansas Supreme Court in Salina v. Blaksley made a collective right judicial interpretation. The Kansas high court declared: "That the provision in question applies only to the right to bear arms as a member of the state militia, or some other military organization provided for by law, is also apparent from the second amendment to the federal Constitution, which says: '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.'"
In the Congress, the debate on the Fourteenth Amendment also concentrated on what the Southern States were doing to harm the newly freed slaves. One particular concern was the disarming of former slaves.