IntroductionFrom the enactment of the Bill of Rights through most of the 20th Century, the Second Amendment seems to have been understood to guarantee to every law-abiding responsible adult the right to possess arms. Until the mid-20th Century courts and commentaries (the two earliest having been before Congress when it voted on the Second Amendment) deemed that the Amendment "confirmed [the people] in their right to keep and bear their private arms", "their own arms", albeit 19th Century Supreme Court decisions held it subject to the non-incorporation doctrine under which none of the Bill of Rights were deemed inapplicable against the states.  In a 1939 case which is its only full treatment, the Supreme Court accepted that private persons may invoke the Second Amendment, but held that it guarantees them only freedom of choice of militia-type weapons, i.e. high quality handguns and rifles, but not "gangster weapons" like sawed-off shotguns, switchblade knives and (arguably) "Saturday Night Specials. [2In the 1960s this individual right view was challenged by scholars arguing that the Second Amendment guarantee extends only to the states' right to arm formal military units.  The states' right view attained predominance, being endorsed by the ABA, the ACLU and such texts as Tribe's AMERICAN CONSTITUTIONAL LAW. During the 1980s, however, a large literature on the Amendment appeared most of it rejecting the states' right view as inconsistent with the text ("right of the people", not "right of the states") and with new research findings on the immediate legislative history, the attitudes of the authors, the meaning of the right to arms in antecedent American and English legal thought and the role that an armed citizenry played in classical liberal political philosophy from Aristotle through Machiavelli and Harrington to Sidney, Locke, Rousseau and their various disciples.  Indicative of the current Supreme Court's probable view is a 1990 decision which, though focussing on the Fourth Amendment, cites the First and Second as well in concluding that the phrase "right of the people" is a term of art used throughout the Bill of Rights to designate rights pertaining to individual citizens (in contrast to the states).  Sanford Levinson speculates that the indifference of academia, and the legal profession generally, to the Amendment reflects
- a mixture of sheer opposition to the idea of private ownership of guns and the perhaps subconscious fear that altogether plausible, perhaps even "winning" interpretations of the Second Amendment would present real hurdles to those of us supporting prohibitory regulation. 
Self-protection as a Core Concept of Classical Liberal Political PhilosophyThe underpinnings of the classical liberal belief in an armed people are obscure to us because we are not accustomed to thinking about political issues in criminological terms. But the classical liberal worldview was criminological, for lack of a better word. It held that good citizens must always be prepared to defend themselves and their society against criminal usurpation - a characterization no less applicable to tyrannical ministers or pillaging foreign or domestic soldiery (who were, in point of fact, largely composed of criminals inducted from gaols  ) than to apolitical outlaws. To natural law philosophers, self-defense was "the primary law of nature", the primary reason for man entering society.  Indeed, it was viewed as not just a right but a positive duty: God gives Man both life and the means to defend it; the refusal to do so reviles God's gift; in effect it is a Judeo- Christian form of hubris. Indicative of the intellectual gulf between that era and our own is that Montesquieu could rhetorically ask a question that today might be seriously posed, "Who does not see that self-protection is a duty superior to every precept?"  Radiating out directly from this core belief in self- defense as the most self-evident of rights came the multiple chains of reasoning by which contemporary thinkers sought to resolve a multitude of diverse questions. For instance, 17th and 18th Century treatises on international law were addicted to long disquisitions on individual self-protection from which they attempted to deduce a law of nations.  More important for present purposes, John Locke adduced from the right of individual self-protection his justification of the right(s) of individuals to resist tyrannical officials and, if necessary, to band together with other good citizens in overthrowing tyranny: God gives Man life, liberty, and property. Slavers, robbers and other outlaws who would deprive him of these rights may be resisted even to the death because their attempted usurpation places them in a "state of war" against the honest man; likewise, when a King and/or his officials attempts to divest the subject of life, liberty or property they dissolve the compact by which he has agreed to their governance and enter into a state of war with him - wherefore they may be resisted the same as any other usurper. Likewise Algernon Sidney declared: "Swords were given to men, that none might be Slaves, but such as know not how to use them"; a tyrant is "a public Enemy"; every man may rightfully use his arms rather than submit to "the violence of a wicked Magistrate, who having armed a Crew of Lewd Villains" subjects him to murder and pillage. "Nay, all Laws must fall, human Societies that subsist by them be dissolved, and all innocent persons be exposed to the violence of the most wicked, if men might not justly defend themselves against injustice...."  From these premises it followed, as Thomas Paine wrote, that "the good man," had both right and need for arms; moreover, no law would dissuade "the invader and the plunderer," from having them. So, "since some will not, others dare not lay them aside.... Horrid mischief would ensue were" the law-abiding "deprived of the use of them;... the weak will become a prey to the strong."  Similarly did Cesare Beccaria assail arms bans as a paradigm of simplistic legislation reflecting "False Ideas of Utility." His discussion deserves quotation in full, inter alia because Thomas Jefferson laboriously copied it in long-hand into his personal compilation of great quotations: 
- False is the idea of utility that sacrifices a thousand real advantages for one imaginary or trifling inconvenience; that would take fire from men because it burns, and water because one may drown in it; that has no remedy for evils, except destruction. The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm those only who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. Can it be supposed that those who have the courage to violate the most sacred laws of humanity, the most important of the code, will respect the less important and arbitrary ones, which can be violated with ease and impunity, and which, if strictly obeyed, would put an end to personal liberty - so dear to men, so dear to the enlightened legislator - and subject innocent persons to all the vexations that the quality alone ought to suffer? Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man. They ought to be designated as laws not preventive but fearful of crimes, produced by the tumultuous impression of a few isolated facts, and not by thoughtful consideration of the inconveniences and advantages of a universal decree.
Self-protection as benefit to the whole communityThe ideas underlying the Second Amendment are also obscured to us by the distinction we tend to draw between self- protection as a purely private and personal value and defense of the community which we tend to conceptualize as a function and value of the police. Modern Americans tend to see incidents in which a violent criminal is thwarted by a police officer as very different from similar incidents in which the defender is a civilian. When the police defend citizens it is conceptualized (and lauded) as defense of the community. In contrast, when civilians defend themselves and their families the tendency is to regard them as exercising what is, at best, a purely personal privilege serving only the particular interests of those defended, not those of the community at large. Such influential and progressive voices in American life as Garry Wills, Ramsey Clark and the WASHINGTON POST go further yet, declaring those who own firearms for family defense "anti-citizens", "traitors, enemies of their own patriae", arming "against their own neighbors" and denouncing "the need that some homeowners and shopkeepers believe they have for weapons to defend themselves" as representing "the worst instincts in the human character", a return to barbarism, "anarchy, not order under law - a jungle where each relies on himself for survival."  The notion that the truly civilized person eschews self-defense, relying on the police instead, or that private self-protection disserves the public interest, would never have occurred to the Founding Fathers since there were no police in 18th Century America and England. As addressed infra, in the tradition from which the Second Amendment derives it was not only the unquestioned right, but a crucial element in the moral character, of every free man that he be armed and willing to defend his family and the community against crime both individually and by joining with his fellows in hunting criminals down when the hue and cry went up, and in more formal posse, and militia patrol duties, under the control of justices of the peace or sheriffs.  In this milieu, individuals who thwarted a crime against themselves or their families were seen as serving the community as well. If the right to possess and use arms "against robbers and plunderers was taken away, then would follow a vast license of crime and a deluge of evils" averred Hugo Grotius.  This failure to distinguish the value of self-protection to individuals as opposed to the community, helps account for what modern readers may deem a remarkable myopia in 17th-19th Century liberal discourse on crime, self-protection and community interest. Without apparent consciousness of any difference, liberal discourse addressed issues of community defense as if it were only individual self-protection writ large. Thus, Montesquieu confidently asserted that "The life of governments is like that of man. As the former has a right to kill in case of natural defense, the latter have a right to wage war for their own preservation." Likewise, Thomas Paine cited the (to his compeers) indubitable right and need for "the good man" to be armed against "the vile and abandoned" as irrefutable evidence of the right and need of nations to arm for defense against "the invader and plunderer"; for, if deprived of arms, "the weak will become a prey to the strong."  As we have seen, Algernon Sydney and John Locke adduced from the right of individual self-defense their justification of the right(s) of individuals to resist tyrannical officials and, if necessary, to band together with other good citizens to overthrow tyranny. Thus a crucial point for understanding the Second Amendment is that it emerged from a tradition which viewed general possession of arms as a positive social good, as well as an indispensable adjunct to the premier individual right of self- defense. Moreover, arms were deemed to protect against every species of criminal usurpation, including "political crime", a phrase which the Founding Fathers would have understood in its most literal sense. Whether murder, rape and theft be committed by gangs of assassins, tyrannous officials and judges or pillaging soldiery, rather than outlaw bands, was a mere detail; the criminality of the "invader and plunderer" lay in his violation of natural law and rights, regardless of the guise in which he violated them. The right to resist and to possess arms therefor - and the community benefit from such individual and/or concerted self-protection - remained the same.
Political Functions of the Right to ArmsThe views of Locke and Sidney - so controversial in their own time that they were the basis of the prosecution's case in the trial that resulted in Sidney's execution - had became settled orthodoxy by the mid-18th Century. Thus we find Edward Gibbon, a Tory M.P. in the circle of George III casually remarking, in the course of defining "monarchy":
- [U]nless public liberty is protected by intrepid and vigilant guardians, the authority of so formidable a magistrate will soon degenerate into despotism. [A]lthough the clergy might effectively oppose the monarch they have] very seldom been seen on the side of the people. A martial nobility and stubborn commons, possessed of arms, tenacious of property, and collected into constitutional assemblies, form the only balance capable of preserving a free constitution against enterprises of an aspiring prince. 
- In these several rights consist the rights, or, as they are frequently termed, the liberties of Englishmen.... So long as these remain inviolate, the subject is perfectly free; for every species of compulsive tyranny and oppression must act in opposition to one or [an]other of these rights, having no other object upon which it can possible be employed.... And, lastly, to vindicate these rights, when actually violated or attacked, the subjects of England are entitled, in the first place, to the regular and free course of justice in the courts of law; next, to the right of petitioning the King and parliament for redress of grievances; and, lastly, to the right of having and using arms for self-preservation and defense. 
The Armed Freeholder Ideal of Virtuous CitizenshipThe final section of this article describes several historical situations in which the possession (or prohibition) of arms for personal self-protection had concrete political effects. But no less important in the classical liberal worldview was the moral and symbolic significance of the right to arms. Arms possession for protection of self, family and polity was both the hallmark of the individual's freedom and one of the two primary factors in his developing the independent, self- reliant, responsible character which classical liberal political philosophers deemed necessary to the citizenry of a free state. The symbolic significance of arms as epitomizing the status of the free citizen represented ancient law. From Anglo-Saxon times "the ceremony of freeing a slave included the placing in his hands of" arms "as a symbol of his new rank." Likewise in Norman times, "the Laws of Henry I stipulate[d] that a serf should be liberated by" a public ceremony involving "placing in his hands the arms suitable to a freeman." Anglo-Saxon law forbade anyone to disarm a free man and Henry I's laws applied this even to the man's own lord.  Such precedents were particularly important to theorists like Blackstone and Jefferson to whom the concept of "natural rights" had a strongly juridical tinge relating to the English legal heritage. The Anglo-American legal distinction between free man/armed and unfree/disarmed flowed naturally into the classical liberal view that the survival of free and popular government required citizens of a special character - and that the possession of arms was one of two keys in the development of that character. >From Machiavelli and Harrington classical liberal philosophy derived the idea that arms possession and property ownership were the keys to civic virtu. In the Greek and Roman republics from whose example they took so many lessons, every free man had been armed so as to be prepared both to defend his family against outlaws and to man the city walls in immediate response to the tocsin warning of approaching enemies. Thus did each citizen commit himself to the fulfillment of both his private and his public responsibilities.  The very survival of republican institutions depended upon this moral (as well as physical) commitment - upon the moral and physical strength of the armed freeholder: sturdy, independent, scrupulous, and upright, the self-reliant defender of his life, liberty, family, and polity from outlaws, oppressive officials, despotic government, and foreign invasion alike. That the freeholder might never have to use his arms in such protection mattered naught. (Indeed, one basic tenet classical political theory took from its criminological premises was that of deterrence: if armed and ready the free man would be least likely ever to actually have to defend. Simply to be armed, and therefore able to protect one's own, was enough; this moral commitment both developed and exemplified the character of the virtuous republican citizen.) Commitment, duty, responsibility is also viewed as a positive right (at least when challenged) because, naturally enough, to the virtuous citizen the carrying out of responsibilities to family and duties to country are a right. And this right/obligation to be armed inevitably will be challenged for it is the nature of absolutism to want to disarm the people. Nor is this simply for the physical security despotism gains in monopolizing armed power in the hands of the state, thereby rendering the people helpless. Disarmament also operates on the moral plane. The tyrant disarms his citizens in order to degrade them; he knows that being unarmed
- palsies the hand and brutalizes the mind: an habitual disuse of physical force totally destroys the moral; and men lose at once the power of protecting themselves, and of discerning the cause of their oppression. 
- A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives a moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be the companion of your walks. 
The Efficacy of Arms and Self-DefenseOf course the reasons for the Founding Fathers' belief in arms possession were not limited to purely moral premises. Indeed, the Founders and their intellectual progenitors had an almost boundless faith in the pragmatic, as well as the moral, efficacy of widespread arms possession. They would be not at all surprised that no 20th Century military has managed to suppress an armed popular national insurgency, a fact which accounts for the modern histories of Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Cuba, Ireland, Israel, Madagascar, Nicaragua, Vietnam and Zimbabwe, to name only the most prominent examples. Classical liberal thought espoused an almost boundless faith in the efficacy of civilian arms possession as deterrent and defense against outlaws, tyrants and foreign invaders alike. Madison confidently assured his fellow-countrymen that a free people need not fear government "because of the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation."  Arming the people is, according to Locke's followers Trenchard and Moyle,
- the surest way to preserve [their liberties] both at home and abroad, the People being secured thereby as well against the Domestick Affronts of any of their own [fellow] Citizens, as against the Foreign Invasions of ambitious and unruly Neighbors. 
- stand upon [their] own Defense; which if [they] are able to do, [they] shall never be put upon it, but [their] Swords will grow rusty in [their] hands; for that Nation is surest to live in Peace, that is most capable of making War; and a Man that hath a Sword by his side, shall have least occasion to make use of it. 
- [T]heir conscious dignity, as citizens enjoying equal rights, [precludes armed citizens having any desire] to invade the rights of others. The danger (where there is any) from armed citizens, is only to the government, not to the society; as long as they have nothing to revenge in the government (which they cannot have while it is in their own hands) there are many advantages in their being accustomed to the use of arms and no possible disadvantage. 
- Dogs could not be used in the streets in the manner many Jews were treated. One circumstance among others put an end to the ill-usage of the Jews. About the year 1787 Daniel Mendoza, a Jew, became a celebrated boxer and set up a school to teach the art of boxing as a science. The art soon spread among young Jews and they became generally expert at it. The consequence was in a very few years seen and felt too. It was no longer safe to insult a Jew unless he was an old man and alone. But even if the Jews were unable to defend themselves, the few who would now be disposed to insult them merely because they are Jews, would be in danger of chastisement from the passers-by and of punishment from the police. 
The First, Second, Third and Fourth Amendments as Connected GuaranteesThe Founding Fathers' reasons for guaranteeing a right to arms for individual self-protection were not limited to abstruse moral or philosophical precepts. The Amendment reflects concrete historical circumstances known to them which help explain why the right to arms in our Bill of Rights follows immediately upon the First Amendment and precedes the Third and Fourth. Probably the most obvious political ramification of the right to defensive arms is the deterrent effect of the power to disarm dissenters in a violence-ridden society. Until the early 19th Century England was an enormously violent country overrun with cutthroats, cutpurses, burglars and highwaymen and in which rioting over social and political matters was endemic. Moreover, until 1829 it had no police. So when the 17th Century Stuart Kings began selectively disarming their enemies the effect was not simply to safeguard the throne, but to severely penalize dissent. Those who had opposed the King were left helpless against either felons or rioters - who, by the very fact, were encouraged to attack them. The in terrorrem effect upon dissent of knowing that to speak out might render one's family defenseless while targeting them for every felon, and every enemy who might want to whip up riotous public sentiment against them, is obvious. Caucasian readers in well-policed modern America may find it difficult to see riot either as a socio-political phenomenon or as something to which personal self-protection is relevant. Yet over many years riot and nightrider attacks - perpetrated while police stand by - have served to undercut or destroy civil rights gains, strike back at racial and ethnic minorities, and exclude blacks from white neighborhoods. It has been suggested that the availability of firearms for protection against private, retaliatory violence was a key to the Civil Rights Movement's survival in the southern United States of the 1950's and 1960's. Comparison might be made to South Africa where blacks, though an overwhelming majority, are subject to one of the world's most effective gun control campaigns.  The disarmament of minorities or dissenters in a climate in which they may be subject to private violence (often encouraged by government) has been a well-established policy in many countries including Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. The leading example is the Krystallnacht (Nov. 9, 1938) in which thousands of Jews were beaten, raped and/or murdered and a billion reichsmarks of Jewish property was looted or destroyed in nationwide riots orchestrated by the Nazi Party after the Jews had been excluded from gun ownership under German law.  It is dubious that many German Jews wanted to own arms - or that it would have made any difference to their eventual fate. But it is an item of faith in Israel that Jews persevered and triumphed in Middle East - where they were during the 1930's a far smaller minority, and subject to far more violence, than in Europe - because they took steps to obtain and use arms. Rioters and vigilantes are not the only kinds of villains against whom the necessity of protection may be less clearly perceived today than it was in the age of Blackstone. No less a menace than rioters or outlaws was the pillaging soldier, loosed not only on foreign populations but in his own country for political, religious or social reasons or because of the King's inability to pay, and thus control, him. Generally speaking, there was no difference of character between rioters, felons and soldiers - who were often one and the same. Often the soldier was a common criminal inducted directly out of jail and unleashed on the King's enemies, whether foreign or domestic. The perpetration of such outrages upon his critics by Charles I engendered the Petition of Right of 1628 and helped eventually to bring him to the headsman. But of innumerable such examples that might be cited from European history in this period, probably the one most remembered by 18th Century Englishmen and Americans would have been the persecution that drove the Huguenots to their chores by the thousands. As a modern historian has noted, among the numerous tribulations visited in the 1690's upon the Huguenots in order to compel them to convert, the
- most atrocious - and effective - were the dragonnades, or billeting of dragoons on Huguenot families with encouragement to behave as viciously as they wished. Notoriously rough and undisciplined, the enlisted troops of the dragoons spread carnage, beating and robbing the householders, raping the women, smashing and wrecking and leaving filth... 
- It is a natural right which the people have reserved to themselves, confirmed by the [English] Bill of Rights, to keep arms for their own defence; and as Mr. Blackstone observes, it is to be made use of when the sanctions of society and law are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression.