Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

APPEARS IN Legal & Legislation

Our 2nd Amendment: The Original Perspective

Monday, October 4, 1999

By by David B. Kopel

"In America we may reasonably hope
that the people will never cease
to regard the right of keeping and bearing arms
as the surest pledge of their liberty."
--St. George Tucker





The grassroots volunteer strength of Second Amendment activists is the fundamental reason why the right to keep and bear arms is so much healthier in America than in other countries. The anti-gun lobbies know this, and one of their major objectives is to discourage you, the American gun owner, from working to defend your Constitutional rights.

For example, the gun-ban group formerly known as Handgun Control, Inc.`s web site contains materials written by HCI staff insisting that the idea that the Second Amendment guarantees a right of individual Americans to keep and bear arms is a "myth" and a "fraud" invented by the National Rifle Association. If you read this material and fell for it, you would likely become much less energetic in political work to defend the Second Amendment.

But in truth, HCI`s claim that the individual`s right to keep and bear arms is a "fraud", is itself a creative compilation of selective quotations, facts taken out of context, and omission of the large body of contrary evidence.

In Stalin`s Soviet Union (one of the many countries where domestic disarmament paved the way for genocide), a person who fell out political favor became a "non-person." If you owned the Soviet encyclopedia, you would receive instructions from time to time ordering you to cut out an entry referring to somebody who had newly been declared an unperson. Excised from the encyclopedia, the "non-person" would never again be mentioned by the government, and any private person who even acknowledged that the "non-person" had ever existed would be risking a long stretch in the concentration camps.

HCI`s campaign to persuade Americans that the Second Amendment has nothing to do with individual rights depends on turning many of the greatest American judges and legal scholars into non-persons. HCI simply pretends that these people never existed, because to acknowledge their existence would be to admit that it is HCI`s description of the Second Amendment which is the "myth."

Consider, for example, St. George Tucker. He is a person whom you will regularly encounter in the many scholarly law review articles which agree that the Second Amendment guarantees a right of every American adult citizen to own and carry guns. But if all you knew was what you read from the anti-gun lobbies, St. George Tucker would be a non-person.



St. George Tucker, creator of an American edition of Blackstone`s Commentaries, was appointed by President James Madison to Virginia`s High Court of Appeals where he served as a jurist from 1804 until his death in 1827.



Tucker, the most important legal scholar of the early American republic, was just starting his legal career in Virginia when the American Revolution intervened. Tucker threw himself into the Patriots` cause enthusiastically, leading a gun-running operation in which his four small ships sent indigo to the West Indies and Bermuda in exchange for firearms.

After independence had been won, St. George Tucker became one of the most distinguished Virginia lawyers; he taught law at William and Mary from 1790 until 1804, when he was appointed a judge of Virginia`s High Court of Appeals. Tucker was also the leading abolitionist in Virginia, calling an end to slavery his "dearest wish."

In 1790, St. George Tucker began work on a treatise, published in 1803, which became the greatest law book in America. Tucker`s project was to create an American edition of Blackstone`s Commentaries.

In 1760, the English lawyer Sir William Blackstone had written a four volume Commentaries on the Law of England. Blackstone`s explication of every facet of English law (which of course, was also the law in America) became essential reading for every lawyer.

Tucker set out to create an American edition of Blackstone. Adding his own analysis to Blackstone`s, Tucker aimed to create a legal guidebook specifically suited to American conditions.

In particular, Tucker demonstrated that the American law of the early 19th century provided far greater protection of civil liberty than did the English law that Blackstone had described in 1760.

For example, Blackstone had written that the liberty of the press meant that the government could not censor something before it was written; but after publication, the government could punish someone for having criticized the king. But Tucker`s American edition of Blackstone explained that in America, thanks to the First Amendment, one could not be punished for criticizing the government.




19th Century Constitutional Law Treatises which Address the Second Amendment

All legal treatises or essays from the nineteenth century which discussed the Second Amendment treated it as an individual right. If two publication dates are listed for a book, the first date is the date of original publication, and the second date is for a modern reprint. Most of the books are available on the Internet through Amazon.com (http:/www.amazon.com) or can be special-ordered at a local bookstore. Many of the reprint editions are by Fred B. Rothman & Co., Littleton, Colorado.

St. George Tucker, Blackstone`s Commentaries, with Notes of Reference to the Constitution and Laws of the Federal Government of the United States and the Commonwealth of Virginia (1996) (1803). William Blackstone`s Commentaries on the Laws of England was a major English treatise from the 1760s. Tucker`s edition added substantial additional commentary, updating Blackstone to reflect the evolution of American law.

William Rawle, A View of the Constitution of the United States of America (1970, reprint of 2d ed. 1829).

Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution (1833), available in full text on the Internet at http://www.constitution.org/js/js_000.htm.

Joseph Story, A Familiar Exposition of the Constitution of the United States (1840). Numerous modern reprints available.

Henry St. George Tucker, Commentaries on the Law of Virginia (1831). Henry St. George Tucker was a distinguished Virginia judge and law professor, and a distant relative of St. George Tucker (above).

Benjamin L. Oliver, The Rights of an American Citizen; with a Commentary on State Rights, and on the Constitution and Policy of the United States (1832).

James Bayard, A Brief Exposition of the Constitution of the United States 3-4 (1992, reprint of 2d ed., 1845).

Francis Lieber, On Civil Liberty and Self-Government (enlarged ed., 1859)

Lysander Spooner, The Unconstitutionality of Slavery (1845).

Lysander Spooner, A Defence of the Fugitive Slaves 27 (1850). Spooner`s works are available in a variety of modern anthologies of his writing.

Joel Tiffany, Treatise on the Unconstitutionality of American Slavery (1849) Joel Tiffany, A Treatise on Government and Constitutional Law Being an Inquiry into the Source and Limitations of Governmental Authority according to the American Theory (1867).

C. Chauncey Burr, Notes on the Constitution of the United States (1861).

Timothy Farrar, Manual of the Constitution of the United States (1993)(1867).

George W. Paschal, The Constitution of the United States Defined and Carefully Annotated (1868).

Joel Prentiss Bishop, Commentaries on the Criminal Law (3d ed., 1865)

Joel Prentiss Bishop, Commentaries on the Law of Statutory Crimes (1873).

John Pomeroy, An Introduction to the Constitutional Law of the United States (1870).

Oliver Wendell Holmes , Jr., editor and author of additional comment
TRENDING NOW
National Concealed Carry Reciprocity Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them

News  

Friday, January 13, 2017

National Concealed Carry Reciprocity Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them

On January 3rd, Congressman Richard Hudson (R-N.C.8th) introduced H.R. 38, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, which simply allows lawful firearm carriers from any state to carry a concealed firearm in any other state. The bill ...

Your Members of Congress Need to Hear from You on the Hearing Protection Act of 2017

News  

Friday, January 13, 2017

Your Members of Congress Need to Hear from You on the Hearing Protection Act of 2017

On Monday, Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) – joined by co-sponsors Sens. Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Rand Paul (R-KY) – introduced S. 59, the Hearing Protection Act of 2017 (HPA). Similar legislation was introduced in the ...

Supreme Court Asked to Review California’s Restrictive Carry Regime

News  

Friday, January 13, 2017

Supreme Court Asked to Review California’s Restrictive Carry Regime

On Thursday, the NRA-supported case Peruta v. California took an important step towards restoring the right to bear arms in California.  The plaintiffs in the case, California gun owners and the California Rifle and Pistol ...

Alert: WA State Proposes Draconian Gun Ban Bills

News  

Friday, January 13, 2017

Alert: WA State Proposes Draconian Gun Ban Bills

Inspired, perhaps, by Oscar Wilde (“Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess”), Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson has announced two new sweeping gun control bills, with Sen. David Frockt (D-Seattle) and Rep. ...

The NRA Bids Farewell to Roy Innis, Civil Rights Champion: June 6, 1934 – Jan. 8, 2017

News  

Friday, January 13, 2017

The NRA Bids Farewell to Roy Innis, Civil Rights Champion: June 6, 1934 – Jan. 8, 2017

America lost a civil rights icon and a true free thinker with the death of Roy Innis on Jan. 8. For the NRA, his departure was personal. Mr. Innis served on the NRA’s Board of ...

Jeff Sessions’ Devotion to the Constitution Shines Through in Contentious Confirmation Hearing

News  

Friday, January 13, 2017

Jeff Sessions’ Devotion to the Constitution Shines Through in Contentious Confirmation Hearing

On January 10 and 11, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held the confirmation hearing for President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for United States Attorney General, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). Throughout his distinguished career in public service, ...

Increase in Violent Crime: National Trend Driven by Local Politics?

News  

Friday, January 13, 2017

Increase in Violent Crime: National Trend Driven by Local Politics?

The FBI released its Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report earlier this week and the bad news is that violent crime increased for the second consecutive year.

NRA Applauds the Introduction of the Hearing Protection Act, H.R. 367

News  

Hunting  

Monday, January 9, 2017

NRA Applauds the Introduction of the Hearing Protection Act, H.R. 367

FAIRFAX, Va. – The National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) applauded Congressmen Jeff Duncan (SC) and John Carter (TX-31) on Monday for introducing the Hearing Protection Act, an important bill that gives gun owners and sportsmen ...

Gun Shy Professor Claims Need to Counter Campus Carry

News  

Friday, January 6, 2017

Gun Shy Professor Claims Need to Counter Campus Carry

Do you look back on your college years and remember the impassioned debates, when disagreements over the Periodic Table of Elements, theories of supply and demand, or the status of Pluto as a planet could ...

California: Pre-Litigation Demand Letter sent to DOJ opposing “Bullet Button Assault Weapon” Regulations

Monday, January 9, 2017

California: Pre-Litigation Demand Letter sent to DOJ opposing “Bullet Button Assault Weapon” Regulations

Today, NRA and CRPA’s legal team submitted a joint-letter to DOJ demanding that DOJ withdraw their regulations as a violation of the authority granted under the law.  NRA and CRPA’s legal team also submitted a ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -
NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.