A Right to Bear Arms

A Right to Bear Arms (1989)

State and Federal Bills of Rights and Constitutional Guarantees

The right to keep and bear arms was considered a fundamental, individual right in the original 14 states (the 13 colonies and Vermont) from the pre-Revolutionary period through the ratification of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1791. A Right to Bear Arms is the first book to document the deprivation of this right as a cause of the American Revolution and to trace the protection accorded to this right by the framers of the first State constitutions, which inspired the Second Amendment.

A Right to Bear Arms relies on original sources such as period newspapers, constitutional convention debates, and the writings of the “State framers,” such as Samuel Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and lesser-known but intruiging figures from Pennsylvania, the Carolinas, New Hampshire, New York, and elsewhere. Violation of the right to bear arms by the British and in the slave codes is analyzed, as is promotion of the right in the militia laws. Developments in the original states for the past two centuries are traced. This scholarly book is a valuable source to historians, political scientists, the legal profession, and special interest groups.

Contents of the Book

  • The Inhabitants of Boston Disarmed
  • “The Right to Bear Arms” in the State Declartions of Rights
    • Pennsylvania
    • North Carolina
    • Vermont
    • Massachusetts
  • “A Well-Regulated Militia” in the State Declarations of Rights
    • Virginia
    • Maryland
    • Delaware
    • New Hampshire
  • Constitutions without Bills of Rights
    • New York
    • New Jersey
    • South Carolina
    • Georgia
  • Charters without Constitutions
    • Connecticut
    • Rhode Island
  • Epilogue: State Constitutional Conventions in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

A Right to Bear Arms Cited as Authority

A Right to Bear Arms was cited as authority in Mosby v. Devine, 851 A.2d 1031, 1042 (R.I. 2004); and by the Office of Legal Counsel, U.S. Department of Justice, “Whether the Second Amendment Secures an Individual Right” (2004),