Argument: Court rulings upholding the individual right to bear arms

Issue Report: Right to bear arms in the US

Blizz v. Commonwealth

As noted in the Northern Kentucky Law Review Second Amendment Symposium: Rights in Conflict in the 1980’s, vol. 10, no. 1, 1982, p. 155, “The first state court decision resulting from the “right to bear arms” issue was Bliss v. Commonwealth. The court held that “the right of citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State must be preserved entire, . . .” This holding was unique because it stated that the right to bear arms is absolute and unqualified. In contrast to this, all states currently regulate the possession and use of firearms to some extent.”[1]

Dred Scott v. Sanford (1856) ruling indicated universal individual right

With Abolition and the Civil War, the question of the rights of freed slaves to carry arms and to belong to militia came to the attention of the courts.

In Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393 (1856) (the “Dred Scott Decision”),[61] the Supreme Court indicated that: “It would give to persons of the negro race, who were recognized as citizens in any one State of the Union . . .the full liberty . . .to keep and carry arms wherever they went.” This may indicate that the right to carry arms was considered to be universal for citizens of the United States. These rights were considered to be protected for “citizens in any one State of the Union”.[2]. The Dred Scott Decision contains additional significant wording.

“More especially, it cannot be believed that the large slaveholding States regarded them as included in the word citizens, or would have consented to a Constitution which might compel them to receive them in that character from another State. For if they were so received, and entitled to the privileges and immunities of citizens, it would exempt them from the operation of the special laws and from the police regulations which they considered to be necessary for their own safety. It would give to persons of the negro race, who were recognized as citizens in any one State of the Union, the right to enter every other State whenever they pleased, singly or in companies, without pass or passport, and without obstruction, to sojourn there as long as they pleased, to go where they pleased at every hour of the day or night without molestation, unless they committed some violation of law for which a white man would be punished; and it would give them the full liberty of speech in public and in private upon all subjects upon which its own citizens might speak; to hold public meetings upon political affairs, and to keep and carry arms wherever they went. (emphasis added)”[3]

US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit against DC handgun ban. March 9th, 2007

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. March 9th, 2007 court decision against the DC handgun ban. – “To summarize, we conclude that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms. That right existed prior to the formation of the new government under the Constitution and was premised on the private use of arms for activities such as hunting and self-defense, the latter being understood as resistance to either private lawlessness or the depredations of a tyrannical government (or a threat from abroad). In addition, the right to keep and bear arms had the important and salutary civic purpose of helping to preserve the citizen militia. The civic purpose was also a political expedient for the Federalists in the First Congress as it served, in part, to placate their Antifederalist opponents. The individual right facilitated militia service by ensuring that citizens would not be barred from keeping the arms they would need when called forth for militia duty. Despite the importance of the Second Amendment’s civic purpose, however, the activities it protects are not limited to militia service, nor is an individual’s enjoyment of the right contingent upon his or her continued or intermittent enrollment in the militia.”