What Gun Rights Do Americans Have?

A Dedham, Massachusetts URL asks “what gun rights have.”

I suspect the question was intended sarcastically but I answer questions, so….

The Second Amendment is the only Article of the Bill of Rights drawn up in formal legal language, with a “preface” laying out the reasons for the law, followed by the law itself. The preface was to inform the courts of the lawmakers intentions in enacting the law, followed by the statute itself. Accordingly, the Second Amendment reads

Image result for Text of the Second Amendment to the U.S.Constitution
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State,” is the preface, putting in writing that creating and maintaining a “well regulated militia” was the purpose of the Amendment.

The “militia clause” consists of one reason out of hundreds of possibilities that Americans should have the right to own, possess, and carry a defensive weapon, be it a sword, pistol, rifle or shotgun (musket).

The active part of the Amendment consists of “the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

Using Noah Websters 1828 dictionary as an authority for the precise meaning of the words James Madison used when he wrote the Bill of Rights, Americans who have not by some action forfeited their civil rights such as the right to vote have legal permission to own, to keep, and to carry “Arms.” That is a “Right Absolute,” which may not be “made less” or abridged.

“Arms” are defined as “such weapons as are charged with (gun)powder, swords, and the appurtenances thereto.” Firearms, which are by definition “charged with gunpowerder” of any size from pillbox pistol to cannon are included; as are virtually all knives up to and including the swords called “Claymores,” as well as cartridges,cartridge boxes, holsters, scabbards, baldrics, and “other appurtenances.

Whether or not convicted felons forfeit their Right to Keep and Bear Arms is debatable. A strict reading of the Second Amendment which concludes with ‘shal not be abridged” or “made less,” suggests that conviction of some less than capital crime does not affect an Americans gun rights.

On the basis of contemporary authority; Webster was a friend of many of the Founders, those are the gun rights Americans enjoy.


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Extranos Alley is a Collaborate effort to provide up to information on the relationship between restrictive gun laws and violent crime; as well as other related topics. While emphasis is on United States gun laws and crime, we also provide data on crime trends world wide.
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