Fordham History Professor Saul Cornell:
It is vital that Americans separate myths from realities, because what many of us seem to have forgotten is that, in the vision of the founders of the United States of America, the right to bear arms carries with it enormous burdens and responsibilities.
In fact, if we restored the Second Amendment to its original meaning, it would be the NRA’s worst nightmare. Invoking the Second Amendment ought to be a more effective argument for increased regulation than it is against it.
In 2008, a closely divided Supreme Court abandoned more than 70 years of precedent and for the first time in American history affirmed that the Second Amendment is about a right to have a handgun in the home for self-defense. Lost in most of the commentary then and now is that this is almost the exactly opposite of what James Madison, the primary architect of the amendment, intended, and is hard to reconcile with the way most ordinary Americans would have read it in 1791…
Militia laws ran on for pages and were some of the lengthiest pieces of legislation in the statute books. States kept track of who had guns, had the right to inspect them in private homes and could fine citizens for failing to report to a muster.
These laws also defined what type of guns you had to buy — a form of taxation levied on individual households. Yes, long before Obamacare, the state made you buy something, even if you did not want to purchase it. (The guns required by law were muskets, not pistols. The only exceptions to this general rule were the horsemen’s pistols that dragoons and other mounted units needed.)
The founders had a word for a bunch of farmers marching with guns without government sanction: a mob.