I am writing this as an historian who focused on U.S. History. Conservatives today are making hay claiming that they are simply using a founder’s view of the Amendment. This could not be further from the truth. Additionally, in 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the right of the individual to bear arms is sacred. Still, a handful of states have laws that outlaw carrying weapons in public. But now, a New York law is in their N.R.A.’s sights as it challenges a law in that state that bars the carrying of a loaded weapon.
Republicans since the 1970s have made a mockery of the Second Amendment. Their claim of historical accuracy is an entirely false spin. How can that be? We need only look at the years from 1767 to 1789. Starting in 1770s, the court on King George through its military emissaries in the Colonies, took steps to remove arms and gun powder from the militia forces each town had. Their final assault on the colonists right to have a well-armed militia took place on April 19, 1775 when British Regular army and marine units set foot to remove the powder from Concord. Now the colonists were well aware of the British forces intentions and removed all arms and gun powder from Concord’s armory. This assault was the last in many other such assaults, all failures, the British Military conducted.
The question here is why was the court of King George III dictating such maneuvers? The answer does not lie in the simple desire of the crown to increase its power over Colonial America. In 1767 the British Parliament passed a set of laws called the Townshend Act. Within this act were the Revenue Act, the Port Act, the Quartering Act and the Indemnity Act. Where the colonies had no representation in Parliament, the colonies rightly felt repression. But these acts were only the beginning of additional acts the British Parliament passed to reign in the colonies. Parliament felt the colonies were out of line with British law, and to come extent, they were! A great example of this was the overt act to avoid taxation in the sugar trade. Massachusetts had a thriving rum distillery business. These merchants set up the triangle trade where sugar was shipped directly to Jamaica where molasses was manufactured. There being no tax on molasses, the substance was then shipped to the Massachusetts, and other, distilleries in the colonies. Another example was the requirement that all ships be built in England. With its lush forests, this law also was entirely ignored. In Manchester NH there is a road named Mast Road which derived its name from the large trees which were hauled over that road on their way to Portsmouth where ships were built.
These restrictive and coercive acts stirred large amounts on rancor among all colonies towards England. Since the earliest of days, the various cities and towns of colonial America secured individual militias to, first, protect them from Indian attack and later as a general form of individual protection. These towns elected their own officers, who, then reported to the General Officers each colony appointed. About 1773 the English forces overtly sought to insert their dominance over the Colonials. On this particular point, however, the colonial stood firm, never giving an inch to the English troops. This, of course, infuriated and exasperated English Parliament as it was never able to overcome the Colonies desires on this point.
One further point must be observed. In the early to mid-1770s, England’s Parliament sought to quiet American editorialism and their individual’s right to protest. The colonists believed these points to be sacred. English oppression was obvious. And it was on this very point that Bostonians, lead by Samuel Adams, went to the port of Boston and threw the tea from three English ships into the bay. The value of that tea at that time was approximately $1 million. That would translate to roughly $33.5 million today.
Now if you look at the Bill of Rights and then at the various coercive acts of England, you will find a one-to-one correlation. The Second Amendment reads, “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 this Amendment you need only look at two phrases to realize that it simply refers to the ability of each state to maintain an active militia which today is known as the National Guard. And we know this to refer only to a group but the phrase, “right of the people” where the noun “people” is always plural, never singular. Now if, as in 1790 America, most town’s militias required the individual to purchases their own arms to participate in the militia, that right would naturally transfer to the individual. It is over this point jurists argue. Today’s National Guard has its weapons and ammunition supplied by the Federal Government, their is no require put upon the individual. This, therefor, negates the notion of an individual’s right to bear arms according to the original act.
However, as a nation of ever changing laws, we have granted, via the various state’s primacy, the individual to hold arms. And the Constitution, via another amendment, has made a state’s law inviolable. That means that New York has the right to restrict, as the state legislature sees fit, who can own fire arms and to restrict the ownership of certain types of arms ownership. And therefor, the Federal Government is not allowed to make a national law regarding this amendment.