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The Keystone of the Second Amendment: The Quakers, the Pennsylvania Constitution, and the Flawed Scholarship of Nathan Kozuskanich


David B. Kopel


Independence Institute; Denver University - Sturm College of Law

Clayton E. Cramer


College of Western Idaho

March 9, 2010

Widener Law Journal, Vol. 19, pp. 277-320, 2010

Abstract:     
Historian Nathan Kozuskanich claims that the Second Amendment - like the arms provision of the 1776 Pennsylvania Constitution - is only a guarantee of a right of individuals to participate in the militia, in defense of the polity. Kozuskanich's claim about the Second Amendment is based on two articles he wrote about the original public meaning of the right to arms in Pennsylvania, including the 1776 and 1790 Pennsylvania constitutional arms guarantees.

Part I of this Article provides a straightforward legal history of the right to arms provisions in the 1776 Pennsylvania Constitution and of the 1790 Pennsylvania Constitution. We examine Kozuskanich’s claims about constitutional language and history.

Part II investigates Kozuskanich's analysis of Quakers who objected to serving in the militia. According to Kozuskanich, the Quaker's protests against being forced to "bear arms" in the militia demonstrate that "bear arms" is exclusively a military term; therefore the "right to keep and bear arms" is only about owning and carrying militia weapons.

But as it turns out, the Quakers were not as pro-gun as Kozuskanich acknowledges. Some Quakers refused to use firearms for personal defense, or even to carry arms ornamentally. Moreover, a review of Kozuskanich's citations of writings by Quakers and other pacifists reveals that not a single one expressed any willingness to possess arms outside the militia. Several of the cited sources have nothing to do with pacifists' arms.

Finally, Part III looks at some astonishing assertions made by Kozuskanich that cast doubts about the accuracy of his characterization of the work of other scholars.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 44

Keywords: Pennsylvania Constitution, right to arms, Second Amendment, Kozuskanich

JEL Classification: K14, K49, Z00

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Date posted: November 10, 2009 ; Last revised: March 12, 2010

Suggested Citation

Kopel, David B. and Cramer, Clayton E., The Keystone of the Second Amendment: The Quakers, the Pennsylvania Constitution, and the Flawed Scholarship of Nathan Kozuskanich (March 9, 2010). Widener Law Journal, Vol. 19, pp. 277-320, 2010. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1502925

Contact Information

David B. Kopel (Contact Author)
Independence Institute ( email )
727 East 16th Ave
Denver, CO 80203
United States
303-279-6536 (Phone)
303-279-4176 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.davekopel.org
Denver University - Sturm College of Law
2255 E. Evans Avenue
Denver, CO 80208
United States
HOME PAGE: http://www.davekopel.org
Clayton E. Cramer
College of Western Idaho ( email )
5500 East Opportunity Drive
Nampa, ID 83687
United States
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