I think our readers will find this report very interesting……it is lengthy, but informative:
REPORT of the SUBCOMMITTEE ON THE CONSTITUTION of the UNITED STATES SENATE
Printed for the use of the Committee on the Judiciary
U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
Preface, by Senator Orrin G. Hatch, chairman, U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on the Constitution, from the State of Utah
· Preface by Senator Dennis DeConcini, ranking minority member, U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on the Constitution, from the State of Arizona
History: Second amendment right to “keep and bear arms”
Does the Second Amendment mean what it says?, by David J. Steinberg, executive director, National Council for a Responsible Firearms policy.
Historical Bases of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, by David T. Hardy, partner in the Law Firm Sando & Hardy.
· The Fourteenth Amendment and the Right to Keep and Bear Arms: The Intent of the Framers, by StephenP. Halbrook, PH. D., attorney and counselor at law.
· The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution Guarantees an Individual Right To Keep and Bear Arms, by James J. Featherstone, Esq., General Counsel, Richard E. Gardiner, Esq., and Robert Dowlut, Esq., Office of the General Counsel, National Rifle Association of America.
In my studies as an attorney and as a United States Senator, I have constantly been amazed by the indifference or even hostility shown the Second Amendment by courts, legislatures, and commentators. James Madison would be startled to hear that his recognition of a right to keep and bear arms, which passed the House by a voice vote without
objection and hardly a debate, has since been construed in but a single, and most ambiguous Supreme Court decision, whereas his proposals for freedom of religion, which he made reluctantly out of fear that they would be rejected or narrowed beyond use, and those for freedom of assembly, which passed only after a lengthy and bitter debate, are the subject of scores of detailed and favorable decisions. Thomas Jefferson, who kept a veritable armory
of pistols, rifles and shotguns at Monticello, and advised his nephew to forsake other sports in favor of hunting, would be astounded to hear supposed civil libertarians claim firearm ownership should be restricted.
Samuel Adams, a handgun owner who pressed for an amendment stating that the “Constitution shall never be construed . . . to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms,” would be shocked to hear that his native state today imposes a year’s sentence, without probation or parole, for carrying a firearm without a police permit.
This is not to imply that courts have totally ignored the impact of the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights. No fewer than twenty-one decisions by the courts of our states have recognized an individual right to keep and bear arms, and a majority of these have not only recognized the right but invalidated laws or regulations which abridged it. Yet in all too many instances, courts or commentators have sought, for reasons only tangentially related to constitutional history, to construe this right out of existence.
They argue that the Second Amendment’s words “right of the people” mean “a right of the state” — apparently overlooking the impact of those same words when used in the First and Fourth Amendments. The “right of the people” to assemble or to be free from unreasonable searches
and seizures is not contested as an individual guarantee. Still they ignore consistency and claim that the right to “bear arms” relates only to military uses. This not only violates a consistent constitutional reading of “right of the people” but also ignores that the second amendment protects a right to “keep” arms. These commentators contend instead that the amendment’s preamble regarding the necessity of a “well regulated militia . . . to a free state” means
that the right to keep and bear arms applies only to a National Guard. Such a reading fails to note that the Framers used the term “militia” to relate to every citizen capable of bearing arms, and that the Congress has established the present National Guard under its own power to raise armies, expressly stating that it was not doing so under its power to organize and arm the militia.
When the first Congress convened for the purpose of drafting a Bill of Rights, it delegated the task to James Madison. Madison did not write upon a blank tablet. Instead, he obtained a pamphlet listing the State proposals for a bill of rights and sought to produce a briefer version incorporating all the vital proposals of these. His purpose was to incorporate, not distinguish by technical changes, proposals such as that of the Pennsylvania minority, Sam Adams, or the New Hampshire delegates. Madison proposed among other rights that “That right of the people to
keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well armed and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country; but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person.” I n the House, this was initially modified so that the militia clause came before the proposal recognizing the right. The proposals for the Bill of Rights were then trimmed in the interests of brevity. The conscientious objector
clause was removed following objections by Elbridge Gerry, who complained that future Congresses might abuse the exemption to excuse everyone from military service.
The proposal finally passed the House in its present form: “A well regulated militia, being necessary for the preservation of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” In this form it was submitted into the Senate, which passed it the following day. The Senate in the process indicated its intent that the right be an individual one, for private purposes, by rejecting an amendment which would have limited the keeping
and bearing of arms to bearing “For the common defense”.
The earliest American constitutional commentators concurred in giving this broad reading to the amendment. When St. George Tucker, later Chief Justice of the Virginia Supreme Court, in 1803 published an edition of Blackstone annotated to American law, he followed Blackstone’s citation of the right of the subject “of having arms suitable to their condition and degree, and such as are allowed by law” with a citation to the Second Amendment, “And this without any qualification as to their condition or degree, as is the case in the British government.” William Rawle’s
“View of the Constitution” published in Philadelphia in 1825 noted that under the Second Amendment: “The prohibition is general. No clause in the Constitution could by a rule of construction be conceived to give to Congress a power to disarm the people. Such a flagitious attempt could only be made under some general pretense by a state legislature. But if in blind pursuit of inordinate power, either should attempt it, this amendment may be
appealed to as a restraint on both.”
The Jefferson papers in the Library of Congress show that both Tucker and Rawle were friends of, and corresponded with, Thomas Jefferson. Their views are those of contemporaries of
Jefferson, Madison and others, and are entitled to special weight. A few years later, Joseph Story in his “Commentaries on the Constitution” considered the right to keep and bear arms as “the palladium of the liberties of the republic”, which deterred tyranny and enabled the citizenry at large to overthrow it should it come to pass.
Subsequent legislation in the second Congress likewise supports the interpretation of the Second Amendment that creates an individual right. In the Militia Act of 1792, the second Congress defined “militia of the United States” to include almost every free adult male in the United States. These persons were obligated by law to possess a firearm and a minimum supply of ammunition and military equipment. This statute, incidentally, remained in effect into the
early years of the present century as a legal requirement of gun ownership for most of the population of the United States. There can by little doubt from this that when the Congress and the people spoke of a “militia”, they had reference to the traditional concept of the entire populace capable of bearing arms, and not to any formal group such as what is today called the National Guard. The purpose was to create an armed citizenry, which the political theorists at the time considered essential to ward off tyranny. From this militia, appropriate measures might create a “well regulated militia” of individuals trained in their duties and responsibilities as citizens and owners of firearms.
If gun laws in fact worked, the sponsors of this type of legislation should have no difficulty drawing upon long lists of examples of crime rates reduced by such legislation. That they cannot do so after a century and a half of trying — that they must sweep under the rug the southern attempts at gun control in the 1870-1910 period, the northeastern attempts in the 1920-1939 period, the attempts at both Federal and State levels in 1965-1976 — establishes the
repeated, complete and inevitable failure of gun laws to control serious crime.
Immediately upon assuming chairmanship of the Subcommittee on the Constitution, I sponsored the report which follows as an effort to study, rather than ignore, the history of the controversy over the right to keep and bear arms. Utilizing the research capabilities of the Subcommittee on the Constitution, the resources of the Library of Congress,
and the assistance of constitutional scholars such as Mary Kaaren Jolly, Steven Halbrook, and David T. Hardy, the subcommittee has managed to uncover information on the right to keep and bear arms which documents quite clearly its status as a major individual right of American citizens. We did not guess at the purpose of the British
1689 Declaration of Rights; we located the Journals of the House of Commons and private notes of the Declaration’s sponsors, now dead for two centuries. We did not make suppositions as to colonial interpretations of that Declaration’s right to keep arms; we examined colonial newspapers which discussed it. We did not speculate as to the intent of the framers of the second amendment; we examined James Madison’s drafts for it, his handwritten outlines of speeches upon the Bill of Rights, and discussions of the second amendment by early scholars who were
personal friends of Madison, Jefferson, and Washington while these still lived. What the Subcommittee on the Constitution uncovered was clear — and long lost — proof that the second amendment to our Constitution was intended as an individual right of the American citizen to keep and carry arms in a peaceful manner, for protection of himself, his family, and his freedoms. The summary of our research and findings form the first portion of this
In the interest of fairness and the presentation of a complete picture, we also invited groups which were likely to oppose this recognition of freedoms to submit their views. The statements of two associations who replied are reproduced here following the report of the Subcommittee. The Subcommittee also invited statements by Messrs. Halbrook and Hardy, and by the National Rifle Association, whose statements likewise follow our report. When I became chairman of the Subcommittee on the Constitution, I hoped that I would be able to assist in the
protection of the constitutional rights of American citizens, rights which have too often been eroded in the belief that government could be relied upon for quick solutions to difficult problems.