Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 October 2011
Second Amendment scholarship has become mired in an intellectual quagmire. Contemporary debate over this provision of the Bill of Rights has been cast in terms of a simple dichotomy: either the Second Amendment protects an expansive individual right similar in nature to freedom of the press or it protects a narrow right of the states to maintain a well-regulated militia. Partisans of the individual rights view argue that the Second Amendment was designed to affirm a basic individual right to own firearms for hunting, recreation, and personal protection. The other view of the amendment, often described as the collective rights view, argues that the amendment was about the allocation of military power in the federal system. According to this view, the Second Amendment was a modest concession to moderate Antifederalists who feared the power of the new federal government. By affirming the right of the people to bear arms as part of a well-regulated militia, Federalists assuaged lingering Antifederalist qualms about the future of the state militias.
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18. Story, Familiar Exposition, 264–65. On the decline of the militia as an institution in the early republic, see Mark Pitcavage, “An Equitable Burden: The Decline of The State Militias, 1783–1858,” Ph.D. Diss., Ohio State University, 1995.
19. On the jeremiad as an important American literary form, see Bercovitch, Sacvan, The American Jeremiad (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1978).Google Scholar
20. Eisgruber, Christopher L., Constitutional Self-Government (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001), 120–26.Google Scholar
21. Several gun rights advocates have suggested recreating the militia, but usually ignore the intrusive nature of the kinds of regulation necessary to create a well-regulated militia. See Kopel, David and Little, Christoper, “Communitarians, Neorepublicans, and Guns: Assessing the Case for Firearms Prohibition,” Maryland Law Review 56 (1997): 438–554Google Scholar, and Denning, Brannon P., and Reynolds, Glenn Harlan, “It Takes a Militia: A Communitarian Case for Compulsory Arms Bearing,” William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal 5 (1996): 185–214.Google Scholar
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