The Invention of the Right to 'Peaceable Carry' in Modern Second Amendment Scholarship

20 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2021

See all articles by Patrick J. Charles

Patrick J. Charles

Government of the United States of America - Air Force

Date Written: July 11, 2021

Abstract

The claim that the Second Amendment was enshrined to protect the peaceable carrying of weapons in public places is relatively new. It was invented in the mid-1970s, largely at the behest of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other gun rights advocates, as part of a wider, organized campaign to advance a broad, individual rights interpretation of the Second Amendment. However, after the Supreme Court decided District of Columbia v. Heller, and historians began examining the history of weapons laws in detail, the ‘peaceable carry’ interpretation of the Second Amendment was discredited as being based on really nothing more than legal conjecture, historical hyperbole, and even a few myths.

Yet recently, many of the same writers responsible for the now discredited ‘peaceable carry’ narrative are once again trying to reassert it as true. As this article will outline, this resurgence of the ‘peaceable carry’ Second Amendment is based on a similar combination of ideologically inflected legal conjecture, historical distortion, and myth. The writers leading this resurgence are particularly tilting at windmills with the allegation that professional historians are attempting to rewrite the historical record to “negate” or “cancel” the Second Amendment right to “bear arms.” One writer has gone so far to label the research and writings of historians an “Illuminati-like conspiracy…to turn the right to bear arms into the crime of bearing arms.” Such allegations appear to be nothing more than an attempt to muddle any history that the ‘peaceable carry’ writers do not favor—history that has consistently shown itself to be reliable and is based on copious amounts of historical evidence.

This article is broken into three parts. Part I explores the story behind the organized campaign to advance a broad, individual rights interpretation of the Second Amendment. Part II examines the precipitous rise and equally dramatic collapse of the ‘peaceable carry’ Second Amendment. Lastly, Part III examines why the recent resurgence of the ‘peaceable carry’ Second Amendment is merely the latest example of gun rights advocates advancing a distorted narrative to further a political agenda.

Keywords: Second Amendment; peaceable carry, armed carriage, bear arms, Sir John Knight's Case, Rex v. Knight, Statute of Northampton, concealed carry, open carry

Suggested Citation

Charles, Patrick J., The Invention of the Right to 'Peaceable Carry' in Modern Second Amendment Scholarship (July 11, 2021). University of Illinois Law Review, 2021, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3885051

Patrick J. Charles (Contact Author)

Government of the United States of America - Air Force ( email )

Washington, DC
United States

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