Antecedents of the Second Amendment

Firearms Law and the Second Amendment, ch. 16 (2d ed. 2019)

43 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2019

See all articles by David B. Kopel

David B. Kopel

Independence Institute; Denver University - Sturm College of Law; Cato Institute

George A. Mocsary

University of Wyoming College of Law

Nicholas James Johnson

Fordham University School of Law

E. Gregory Wallace

Campbell University School of Law

Date Written: August 6, 2019

Abstract

This Chapter provides a sample of the arguments that various philosophers have offered for or against arms possession, and about appropriate constraints on the use of arms. Many of the readings in this Chapter are part of the intellectual background of the Second Amendment. These include material from ancient Greece and Rome (Part B), the Judeo-Christian tradition (Part C), and European political philosophy (Part D). Other material, especially Part A, on ancient China, was unknown to the Americans who adopted the Second Amendment. Yet the same questions that concerned Confucians and Taoists have been at issue throughout history.

One key issue is personal ethics. Is it moral to use force, or deadly force, in self-defense? Does the answer depend on whether the attacker is an individual criminal or a governmental tyrant?

The other major question is the distribution of force. Because arms greatly amplify the user’s physical force, should government have a monopoly on arms possession and use?

One theme of this Chapter is the benefits and dangers of militias versus standing armies. Standing armies consist of full-time soldiers, usually but not always armed by the state. In contrast, a militia consists of soldiers who only serve for part of the year or in situations of necessity. The rest of the time, they maintain their civilian occupations as farmers, merchants, and so on. Usually they supply their own arms. A select militia is a hybrid in which militiamen are drawn from a small segment of the population and spend more (perhaps all) of their time soldiering and may depend on their militia pay for their livelihoods.

Keywords: self-defense, right to arms, Confucianism, Taoism, ancient Greece, ancient Rome, Judaism, Christianity, medieval thought, Bodin, Machiavelli

JEL Classification: K42, K14, Z12, Z18

Suggested Citation

Kopel, David B. and Mocsary, George A. and Johnson, Nicholas James and Wallace, E. Gregory, Antecedents of the Second Amendment (August 6, 2019). Firearms Law and the Second Amendment, ch. 16 (2d ed. 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3433345 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3433345

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

Cato Institute ( email )

1000 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20001-5403
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.cato.org/people/david-kopel

George A. Mocsary

University of Wyoming College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 3035
Laramie, WY 82071
United States

Nicholas James Johnson

Fordham University School of Law ( email )

140 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10023
United States

E. Gregory Wallace

Campbell University School of Law ( email )

225 Hillsborough Street
Raleigh, NC
United States

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
20
Abstract Views
112
PlumX Metrics