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jody Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-08-05 05:10 PM
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DU participants from the UK, please comment on the recently released DOJ
report WHETHER THE SECOND AMENDMENT SECURES AN INDIVIDUAL RIGHT, specifically the following section.

III. The Original Understanding of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms
* * * * * * *
A. The Right Inherited from England

As the Supreme Court has recognized, "The historical necessities and events of the English constitutional experience . . . were familiar to" the Framers and should "inform our understanding of the purpose and meaning of constitutional provisions." (152) This rule is particularly applicable to provisions such as the Second Amendment, because "he law is perfectly well settled that the first ten amendments to the Constitution, commonly known as the Bill of Rights, were not intended to lay down any novel principles of government, but simply to embody certain guaranties and immunities which we had inherited from our English ancestors." (153)

The right to arms that colonial Americans inherited from England had been set out first in the English Declaration of Rights of 1689, and then had been expounded by William Blackstone in his authoritative Commentaries on the Laws of England in the decade before the American Revolution. Both the Declaration and Blackstone made clear that the English right was a personal, individual one, not a "right" belonging to any government or restricted to persons in governmental service. The English right could not have been a federalism provision, because England lacked a federal structure; and neither the Declaration nor the law as expounded by Blackstone conditioned the right on a subject's service in any militia.

* * * * * * * * *

Thus, the right to arms that America inherited from England was a right of individuals, and had deep roots by the time of the Framing. It did not depend on service in the government's militia, nor was it a federalism-related "right" of any government. It therefore provides no warrant for a quasi-collective-right or collective-right view of the Second Amendment. And, absent any evidence that Americans wished to abridge this individual right or transform it substantially, a question that we consider next, the English precedent supports an individual-right view of that Amendment.
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