Don Kates Responds to NY Times
I had previously posted on the NY Times article on whether the 2nd Amendment garantees an individual right to own a gun. Well, Don wrote up a much longer letter here. I wouldn't normally post something this long, but some may find the long list of journal articles of interest.
To the Editor
The pervasive inaccuracy of the N.Y. TIMES on gun issues is epitomized by the fact that "A Liberal Case for Gun Rights" is the most accurate treatment the Times has ever given the Second Amendment â€" and yet is still highly misleading.
From the article the ordinary reader would come away with the following misimpressions: 1) from its enactment in 1791 to roughly 1980 everyone viewed the 2nd Am. as a states right or a meaningless "collective right"; 2) since 1980 a few ivory tower intellectuals have theorized that the Second Amendment might be a right of individual gun owners; 3) nonetheless the great majority of authorities say that is wrong.
The truth is almost diametrically opposite. Specifically:
1) From its enactment till the 20th Century gun control
movement the Second Amendment was universally understood as protecting an individual right to possess arms. Not one court or commentator asserted otherwise; 18th and 19th Century judges and commentators routinely described the Amendment as a right of individual gun owners and expressly analogized it to the rights of freedom of speech, religion, jury trial etc., etc. [See David B. Kopel "The Second Amendment in the Nineteenth Century," 1998 BRIG. YOUNG L. REV. 1359.]
2) The statesâ€™ right and collective rights theories are previously unknown artifacts of the 20th Century gun control movement having no constitutional provenance whatever. William Van Alstyne, a paramount figure in 20th-21st Century constitutional law, summarized the matter thus: "In recent years it has been suggested that the Second Amendment protects the 'collective right' of states to maintain militias, while it does not protect the right of 'the people' to keep and bear arms. If anyone entertained this notion in the period during which the Constitution and Bill of Rights were debated and ratified, it remains one of the most closely guarded secrets of the eighteenth century, for no known writing surviving from the period between 1787 and 1791 states such a thesis." William Van Alstyne, "The Second Amendment and the Personal Right to Arms", 43 DUKE L. J. 1236, 1243, n. 19 (1994)
3) Far from the Second Amendment creating a statesâ€™ militia right, nearly 200 years of Supreme Court cases on the militia hold that the federal government has plenary power over the militia with state authority being limited to issues on which Congress has not spoken. [Houston v. Moore, 18 U.S. 1, 24 (1820) (federal authority over the militia is paramount -- federal militia legislation preempts state), Martin v. Mott, 25 U.S. 19 (1827) (federal authority over the militia is paramount -- president's power to call militia from state control into federal service), Selective Draft Law Cases, 245 U.S. 366, 383 (1918) (federal authority over the militia is paramount -- Congress has power to abolish state militias by bodily incorporating them into federal army), Perpich v. Department of Defense, 496 U.S. 334 (1990) (federal authority over the militia is paramount -- state militias may be called into federal service over state objection).]
4) Over 120 law review articles have addressed the Second Amendment
since 1980. The overwhelming majority affirm that it guarantees a right of individual gun owners. That is why the individual right view is called the "standard model" view of the 2d Am by supporters and opponents alike. [The phrase "standard model" originated in a review of the scholarly literature by an individual right theorist, University of Tennessee constitutional law, Glenn H. Reynolds, "A Critical Guide to the Second Amendment", 62 TENN. L. REV. 461 (1995). For its acceptance even by vigorous opponents of that model see, e.g., John Randolph Prince, "The Naked Emperor: The Second Amendment and the Failure of Originalism," 40 BRAND L. J. 659, 694 (2002) Saul Cornell, "Commonplace or Anachronism: The Standard Model, the Second Amendment and the Problem of History in Contemporary Constitutional Theory", 16 CONST. COMM. 229 (1999), Garry Wills, "To Keep and Bear Arms," NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS, September 21, 1995 and Andrew D. Herz, "Gun Crazy: Constitutional False Consciousness and Dereliction of Dialogic Responsibilities," 75 BOSTON U. LAW REV. 57 (1995).]
5) With virtually no exceptions, the few articles to the contrary have been written by gun control advocates, mostly by people in the pay of the anti-gun lobby. [See, e.,g. Nicholas J. Johnson , "Shots Across No Man's Land: A Response to Handgun Control, Inc.'s Richard Aborn", 22 FORDHAM URBAN L. J. 441-451 (1995).]
6) In contrast, a very substantial proportion of the standard model articles are written by scholars who ruefully state that they personally support gun control but must honestly admit that the evidence is overwhelming that the Second Amendment precludes banning guns to the general population.
[See Appendix B]
-Don B. Kates
Appendix A: The following quotations indicate my authority to speak authoritatively on this subject: Sanford Levinson, "The Embarrassing Second Amendment", 99 YALE L. J. 637, fn. 13 (1989) ("The most important single article is almost undoubtedly Kates, â€˜Handgun Prohibition and the Original Meaning of the Second Amendment, 82 MICH. L. REV. 204' (1983)."), John Randolph Prince, supra 40 BRAND L. J. at 679 ("The seminal article on the "individual rights" view is, as evidenced by its frequent citation alone, Don B. Kates, Jr.'s "Handgun Prohibition and the Original Meaning of the Second Amendmentâ€™" ); David G. Browne, "Treating the Pen and the Sword as Constitutional Equals..." 44 Wm & M. L. REV 2287 , fn. 12 ("The idea of a "standard model" of the Second Amendment probably began with Don B. Kates, Jr.,"Handgun Prohibition and the Original Meaning of the Second Amendmentâ€™").
Appendix B: The following is a partial list of publications after my 1983 article through 2000 which support the standard model using a variety of differing analyses: Calvin Massey, "Guns, Extremists and the Constitution," 57 WASH & LEE L. Rev. 1095 (2000); Roger Roots, "The Approaching Death of the Collective Right Theory of the Second Amendment," 39 DUQ. L. REV. 71, 88ff. (2000); Andrew M. Wayment, "The Second Amendment: A Guard for Our Future Security," 37 IDAHO L. Rev. 203 (2000); Robert Cottrol, ""Structure, Participation, Citizenship and Rights," 87 GEORGETOWN L. J. 2307 (1999); Nelson Lund, "The End of Second Amendment Jurisprudence: Firearms Disabilities and Domestic Violence Restraining Orders" 4 TX REV. L & POLITICS 181 (1999); David B. Kopel "The Second Amendment in the Nineteenth Century", 1998 BRIG. YOUNG L. REV. 1359; Kevin Worthen, "The Right to Keep and Bear Arms in Light of Thornton: The People and Essential Attributes of Sovereignty," 1998 BRIG. YOUNG L. REV. 137; Eugene Volokh, "The Commonplace Second Amendment" 73 N.Y.U. L. REV. 793 (1998) and "The Amazing Vanishing Second Amendment, 73 N.Y.U. L. REV. 831, Brannon P. Denning, "Gun Shy: The Second Amendment as an 'Underenforced Constitutional Norm'", 21 HAR. J. L. & PUB. POL. 719 (1998), Brannon P. Denning, "Professional Discourse, The Second Amendment and the 'Talking Head Constitutionalism' Counterrevolution," 21 SIU L. REV. 227 (1997); Nicholas J. Johnson, "The Intersection of Abortion and Gun Rights" 50 RUTGERS L. REV. 97 (1997); Thomas McAffee & Michael J. Quinlan "Bringing Forward The Right to Keep and Bear Arms: Do Text, History or Precedent Stand in the Way?", 75 U. N.C. L. Rev. 781-899 (1997); Brannon P. Denning & Glenn Harlan Reynolds, "It Takes a Militia: A Communitarian Case for Compulsory Arms Bearing," 5 WM. & M. BILL OF RTS. J. 185 (1997); L. A. Scot Powe, Jr., "Guns, Words and Interpretation," 38 WM. & M. L. REV. 1311-1403 (1997); Robert Dowlut, "The Right to Keep and Bear Arms: A Right to Self-Defense Against Criminals and Despots," 8 STANFORD LAW & POLICY REV. 25 (1997); Nicholas J. Johnson, "Plenary Power and Constitutional Outcasts: Federal Power, Critical Race Theory and the Second, Ninth and Tenth Amendments," 57 Ohio St. L. J. 1556 (1996); Thomas McAffee, "Constitutional Limits on Regulating Private Militia Groups," 58 MONT. L. REV. 45 (1997); David B. Kopel & Christopher Little, "Communitarians, Neo-Republicans, and Guns: Assessing the Case for Firearms Prohibition," MARYLAND L. REV. # 2 (1997); Brannon P. Denning, "Palladium of Liberty? Cause and Consequences of the Federalization of State Militias in the Twentieth Century," 21 OKLA. CITY U. L. REV. 191 (1997); David B. Kopel & Joseph Olson, "Preventing a Reign of Terror: Civil Liberties Implications of Terrorism Legislation," 21 OKLA. CITY U. L. REV. 247 (1997); Brannon P. Denning, "Professional Discourse, The Second Amendment and the 'Talking Head Constitutionalism' Counterrevolution: A Review Essay," 21 SIU L J 227 (1997); Kevin D. Szezepanski, "Searching for the Plain Meaning of the Second Amendment," 44 BUFF. L. REV. 197 (1996); Nelson Lund, "The Past and Future of the Individual's Right to Arms," 31 GEORGIA LAW REVIEW 1 (1996); Scott Bursor, "Toward a Functional Framework for Interpreting the Second Amendment," 74 Texas Law Review 1125-1151 (1996); Brannon Denning, "Can the Simple Cite Be Trusted: Lower Court Interpretations of United States v. Miller and the Second Amendment," 26 CUMBERLAND L. REV. 961-1004 (1996); Anthony Dennis, "Clearing the Smoke from the Right to Bear Arms and the Second Amendment", 29 Akron Law Review 57-92 (1995); Gregory Lee Shelton, "In Search of the Lost Amendment: Challenging Federal Firearms Regulation Through Utilization of the State's Right Interpretation of the Second Amendment," 1995 FLORIDA STATE U. L. REV.; David B. Kopel, "It Isn't About Duck Hunting: The British Origins of the Right to Arms", 93 MICH. L. REV. 1333 (1995); Michael J. Quinlan "Is There a Neutral Justification for Refusing to Implement the Second Amendment or is the Supreme Court Just 'Gun Shy,'" 22 CAPITAL U. L. REV. 641 (1995); T. Markus Funk, "Is the True Meaning of the Second Amendment Really Such A Riddle?" 39 HOWARD L. J. 411 (1995);; Inge Anna Larish, "Why Annie Can't Get a Gun: A Feminist Appraisal of the 2nd Am.", 1996 U. Ill. Law F. 467; T. Markus Funk, "Gun Control and Economic Discrimination: The Melting-Point Case-in-Point", 85 J. CRIM. & CRIMINOL. 764, 776-789 (1995); Robert J. Cottrol and Raymond T. Diamond, "'The Fifth Auxiliary Right'", 104 YALE L. J. 995-1026 (1994); William Van Alstyne, "The Second Amendment and the Personal Right to Arms", 43 DUKE L. J. 1236-1255 (1994); Glenn H. Reynolds "A Critical Guide to the Second Amendment, 62 TENN. L. REV. 461-512 (1995); Jeremy Rabkin, "Constitutional Firepower: New Light on the Meaning of the Second Amendment," 86 J. CRIM. L. & CRIMINOL. 231-246 (1995); Robert J. Cottrol & Raymond T. Diamond, "'Never Intended to be Applied to the White Population': Firearms Regulation and Racial Disparity, The Redeemed South's Legacy to a National Jurisprudence?", 70 CHICAGO-KENT L. REV. 1307 (1995); Nicholas J. Johnson , "Shots Across No Man's Land: A Response to Handgun Control, Inc.'s Richard Aborn", 22 FORDHAM URBAN L. J. 441-451 (1995); David Vandercoy, "The History of the Second Amendment", 28 VALPARAISO L. REV. 1006 (1994); William A. Walker, Review, 88 MICH. L. REV. 1409-14 (1990); Nelson Lund , "The Second Amendment, Political Liberty and the Right to Self-Preservation", 39 ALA. L. REV. 103-130 (1987); Glenn H. Reynolds, "The Right to Keep and Bear Arms Under the Tennessee Constitution", 61 TENN. L. REV. 647 (1994) (extensively discussing the Second Amendment in relation to the Tennessee Constitution); Leonard M. Levy, ORIGINAL INTENT AND THE FRAMERS' CONSTITUTION 341 (Macmillan, 1988); (1986); Robert Shalhope, "The Armed Citizen in the Early Republic", 49 LAW & CONTEMP. PROBS. 125 (1986); Joyce Lee Malcolm, "The Right of the People to Keep and Bear Arms: The Common Law Tradition", 10 HAST. CONST. L. Q. 285 (1983). Stepehn P. Halbrook, "What the Framers Intended: A Linguistic Interpretation of the Second Amendment", 49 LAW & CONTEMP. PROBS. 153 (1986) and "Rationing Firearms Purchases and the Right to Keep Arms" 96 W. VA. L. REV. 1 (1993); Martire, "In Defense of the Second Amendment: Constitutional and Historical Perspectives" 21 LINC. L. REV. 23 (1993); Comment: "Gun Control Legislation and the Intent of the Second Amendment: To What Extent is There an Individual Right to keep and Bear Arms?" 37 VILLANOVA L. REV. 1407 (1992); O'Hare and Pedreira, "An Uncertain Right: The Second Amendment and the Assault Weapon Legislation Controversy", 66 ST. JOHN L. REV. 179 (1992); Robert Dowlut, "Bearing Arms in State Bills of Rights, Judicial Interpretation, and Public Housing" 5 ST. THOMAS LAW REVIEW 203 (1992); Moncure, "The Second Amendment Ain't About Hunting", 34 HOW. L. J. 589 (1991); Halbrook, "The Right of the People or the Power of the State: Bearing Arms, Arming Militias, and t he Second Amendment", 26 VALPARAISO L. REV. 131 (1991); Tahmassebi, "Gun Control and Racism", 2 GEO MASON CIV. RTS. L. J. 67 (1991); Bordenet, "The Right to Possess Arms: the Intent of the Framers of the Second Amendment", 21 U.W.L.A. L. REV. 1 (1990); Moncure, "Who is the Militia - The Virginia Ratifying Convention and the Right to Bear Arms", 19 LINC. L. REV. 1 (1990); Morgan, "Assault Rifle Legislation: Unwise and Unconstitutional", 17 AM. J. CRIM. L.143 (1990); Robert Dowlut, "Federal and State Constitutional Guarantees to Arms", 15 U. DAYTON L. REV. 59 (1989); Halbrook, "Encroachments of the Crown on the Liberty of the Subject: Pre-Revolutionary Origins of the Second Amendment, 15 U. DAYTON L. REV. 91 (1989); Hardy,"The Second Amendment and the Historiography of the Bill of Rights", 4 J. LAW & POLITICS 1 (1987); Hardy, "Armed Citizens, Citizen Armies: Toward a Jurisprudence of the Second Amendment", 9 HARV. J. LAW & PUB. POLICY 559 (1986); Dowlut, "The Current Relevancy of Keeping and Bearing Arms", 15 U. BALT. L. FOR. 32 (1984).