Sunday, January 13, 2008

Cramer and Oleson on Pistols, Crime, and Public Safety in Early America

Clayton E. Cramer, a 2nd Amendment advocate, and Joseph Oleson, Hamline University, have posted a paper, Pistols, Crime, and Public Safety in Early America. Expect to see more on gun rights as the Supreme Court takes up a 2nd Amendment case, District of Columbia v. Heller, this term. E.g., the New York Times discusses some 2nd Amendment arguments today. You can follow breaking Supreme Court News on SCOTUS Blog. Here's Cramer & Oleson's abstract:
There is currently a rather vigorous debate under way about the meaning of the Second Amendment. What "arms" does it protect? The District of Columbia, in its attempt to defend its 1976 gun control law, has argued that the widespread possession of handguns represent an especially serious public safety hazard, and that even if arguendo, the Second Amendment protects an individual right, it would not extend to handguns, which it characterizes as "uniquely dangerous weapons" that present "unique dangers to innocent persons." This paper examines what the history of pistols in early America tells us about what was likely the Framers original intent in protecting "the right of the people to keep and bear arms" with no apparent limitations concerning handguns and concludes that, unlike radio or nuclear power, repeating firearms (of some sort) were not only foreseeable but expected.