Published DateTo the editor,
I am writing today so that everyone who has read my last two letters can fully understand the history of the 2nd Amendment. The original support came from the federal legislative branch, the legislature of each state and the executive branch in the ratification process. This support has also been provided by the U.S. Supreme Court and the supreme court of various states in the rulings that have been made.
In 1837, the state of Georgia passed a statute banning the sale of all pistols (except larger pistols known as "horseman's pistols") and other weapons. The Georgia Supreme Court held that the statute was unconstitutional under the Second Amendment to the federal constitution. It said "...the right of the whole people, old and young, men, women and boys, and not militia only, to keep and bear arms of every description, and not merely such as are used by the militia, shall not be infringed, curtailed, or broken in on, in the slightest degree; and all this for the important end to be attained: the rearing up and qualifying of a well regulated militia, so vitally necessary to the security of a free state."
Prior to the Civil War, the Supreme Court of the United States likewise indicated that the privileges of citizenship included the individual right to own and carry firearms. In the notorious Dred Scott case, the court held that black Americans were not citizens and could not be made such by any state. This decision, which by striking down the Missouri Compromise did so much to bring on the Civil War, listed what the Supreme Court considered the rights of American citizens by way of illustrating what rights would have to be given to black Americans if the court were to recognize them as full fledged citizens:
It would give to persons of the negro race, who are recognized as citizens in any one state of the union, the right to enter every other state, whenever they pleased.... and it would give them full liberty of speech in public and in private upon all subjects upon which its own citizens might meet; to hold public meetings upon political affairs, and to keep and carry arms wherever they went.
In an 1878 ruling the Arkansas Supreme Court held "If cowardly and dishonorable men sometimes shoot unarmed men with army pistols or guns, the evil must be prevented by the penitentiary and gallows, and not by a general deprivation of constitutional privilege."
In 1902 a ruling from the Idaho Supreme Court contains the wording of the 2nd Amendment and the wording of the Constitution of Idaho and says "Under these constitutional provisions, the legislature has no power to prohibit a citizen from bearing arms in any portion of the state of Idaho, whether within or without the corporate limits of cities, towns, and villages."
In 1903 the Supreme Court of Vermont, in a ruling on a local ordinance that banned people from carrying pistols said "The people of the state have a right to bear arms for the defense of themselves and the state. The result is that Ordinance No. 10, so far as it relates to the carrying of a pistol, is inconsistent with and repugnant to the Constitution and the laws of the state, and it is therefore to that extent, void."
The Colorado Supreme Court held in a 1972 ruling against the city of Lakewood held that "...this ordinance would prohibit gunsmiths, pawnbrokers and sporting goods stores from carrying on a substantial part of their business. Also, the ordinance appears to prohibit individuals from transporting guns to and from such places of business. Furthermore, it makes it unlawful for a person to possess a firearm in a vehicle or in a place of business for the purpose of self-defense. Several of these activities are constitutionally protected."
There are hundreds more rulings from the courts reaffirming our right to bear arms but to me the most defining ruling comes from the Oregon Supreme Court in 1980 where they said, "We are not unmindful that there is current controversy over the wisdom of a right to bear arms, and that the original motivations for such a provision might not seem compelling if debated as a new issue. Our task, however, in construing a constitutional provision is to respect the principles given the status of constitutional guarantees and limitations by the drafters; it is not to abandon these principles when this fits the needs of the moment. Therefore, the term "arms" as used by the drafters of the constitutions probably was intended to include those weapons used by settlers for both personal and military defense. The term 'arms' was not limited to firearms, but included several hand-carried weapons commonly used for defense. The term 'arms' would not have included cannon or other heavy ordnance not kept by militia-men or private citizens."
I believe this series of letters clearly shows that our right to posses and carry "arms" cannot be infringed upon by government at any level. If we want to prevent the tragedy of multiple victim murders then we need to concentrate on identifying and stopping the assailant to prevent these incidents and stop trying to merely change which weapon he or she will use.