As British subjects, colonial Americans believed that they shared equally in the enjoyment of this guarantee, and that the right necessarily extended to commerce in firearms. Colonial law reflected such an understanding.
As war raged in 1777, Colonial Undersecretary William Knox recommended that the Americans, once conquered, be subdued, in part, by prohibiting their means of producing arms: â€œthe Arms of all the People should be taken away . . . nor should any Foundery or manufactuary of Arms, Gunpowder, or Warlike Stores, be ever suffered in America, nor should any Gunpowder, Lead, Arms or Ordnance be imported into it without Licence.â€
In 1793, Thomas Jefferson noted that â€œ[o]ur citizens have always been free to make, vend, and export arms. It is the constant occupation and livelihood of some of them.â€