Archive for the 'Militia' Category

The Dick Act and Gun Control

Posted by on Jan 25 2013 | Dick Act, guns, Militia

The first federal statutes governing the Militia of the United States were enacted in 1792.  There were some revisions in 1795. During the Civil War, an amendment removed the language that had restricted federal militia membership to free whites.

The old militia statutes were repealed and replaced by the Militia Act of 1903, 32 Stat. 775, commonly known as the ‘‘Dick Act’’ for its sponsor Representative Charles W.F. Dick, a Major General in the Ohio National Guard.

The Dick Act gave formal federal recognition—and financial support—to the National Guard, which had begun as a volunteer state-based civic organization after the Civil War. According to the Dick Act, the ‘‘organized militia’’ of the United States is the National Guard, plus Naval Militias maintained by some states. 10 U.S.C. §311(b)(1).

The Dick Act also defines the ‘‘unorganized militia.’’ The unorganized militia is all able-bodied men between 17 and 44 years of age who are United States citizens (or ‘‘have made a declaration of intention to become
citizens’’), and who do not belong to the organized militia. 10 U.S.C. §311(a), (b)(2). They are subject to call-up by the federal government in order to ‘‘execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections [or] repel Invasions,’’ under the Constitution’s Militia Clauses. (Clause 15 of Article I, sect. 8 is the “Calling Forth” clause. Clause 16 grants Congress the power to organize, arm, and discipline the militia.)

The best book on the early history of the National Guard, including the Dick Act, is Jerry M. Cooper, The Rise of the National Guard: The Evolution of the American Militia, 1865-1920 (2002). During the late 19th and early 20th century, the National Guard and the National Rifle Association were very closely intertwined.

The Dick Act has long been a part of the Second Amendment debate in the United States, since the Act plainly shows that Militia is not solely the National Guard.

These days, however, a ridiculous email is being circulated, which claims that the Dick Act absolutely prohibits any form of gun control for men 17-44. Further, the email asserts, preposterously, that the Dick Act is unrepealable, because repeal would violate the Bill of Attainder and Ex Post Facto clauses. David Hardy deconstructs this email over at his excellent blog, Of Arms and the Law. Hardy’s blog is mandatory reading for anyone with a serious interest in firearms law and policy.

Grotesquely wrong emails such as this are, objectively speaking, helpful to gun prohibitionists. To the extent that pro-rights activists mistakenly rely on the email, and use it as the basis for arguments that they send to elected officials in opposition to proposed anti-gun laws, the activists are wasting their time with arguments that are plainly incorrect, and therefore will not be persuasive to elected officials. Further, some readers who fall for this email hoax may imagine themselves immune from vast array of repressive laws which are being pushed in Congress and the state legislatures, some which have already been enacted in New York. As a result, these readers may sit on the sidelines politically, failing to get involved at a time when citizen activism is essential.

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Louisiana amendment to strengthen right to arms, on November ballot

Posted by on Oct 03 2012 | Constitutional Amendments, Constitutional History, Constitutional Law, elections, guns, Militia, Popular Constitutionalism, Right to carry, State constitutional law

In state elections, the most important vote this November will be in Louisiana. A referendum there would significantly strengthen protection of the right to keep and bear arms in the state, and would set a very significant national precedent.

Before the Civil War, the Louisiana Constitution did not mention a right to arms. The Louisiana Supreme Courts, however, viewed the federal Second Amendment as directly applicable to state government. So in State v. Chandler (1850), the court held that the Second Amendment protected a general right to carry arms, but that a legislature could ban concealed carry.

A new state constitution, adopted in 1879, provided: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be abridged. This shall not prevent the passage of laws to punish those who carry weapons concealed.” La. Const., art. 3. The first sentence is, of course, nearly verbatim from the Second Amendment.

A century later, firearms prohibitionists had convinced some courts to reinterpret the Second Amendment so as to make it practical nullity. Supposedly, the Second Amendment right was not an individual right, but instead a “state’s right” or “collective right”–which meant that individual gun ownership could be entirely outlawed. Because the Louisiana Constitution’s language so closely paralleled the Second Amendment, there was a danger that a Louisiana court could interpret the state constitutional language to protect nothing at all. Indeed, some courts in other states had already done so, regarding state law language that copied the Second Amendment.

So in 1974, the Louisiana constitutional right was strengthened, with new language: “The right of each citizen to keep and bear arms shall not be abridged, but this provision shall not prevent the passage of laws to prohibit the carrying of concealed weapons.” La. Const., art. I, sect. 11. The new language made it indisputable that the state constitution’s right to arms was an individual right, belonging to each citizen.

Unfortunately, Louisiana’s Supreme Court, like some other courts of the late 1970s, was hostile to the right to arms. According to a 1977 Louisiana Supreme Court decision, “The right to keep and bear arms, like other rights guaranteed by our state constitution, is not absolute. We have recognized that such rights may be regulated in order to protect the public health, safety, morals or general welfare so long as that regulation is a reasonable one.” State v. Amos 343 So.2d 166, 168 (La. 1977).

It was unexceptional for the court to observe that the right to arms is no more “absolute” than any other right. But the court went much further, and essentially stripped the Louisiana arms right of any meaningful judicial protection. According to the Amos court, any form of gun control was constitutional, as long as it was “reasonable.”

In 2001, the Louisiana Supreme Court affirmed a lower court ruling that held: “The right to bear arms is established by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, § 11 of the Louisiana Constitution. The State of Louisiana is entitled to restrict that right for legitimate state purposes, such as public health and safety.” State v. Blanchard, 776 So.2d 1165 (La. 2001). The Blanchard court cited Louisiana state and federal cases from 1986 through 1999 for this proposition.

So Blanchard adopted an even weaker standard of right to arms protection than had Amos. Under Blanchard, any restriction is alright so long as the government has a “legitimate” purpose.  Blanchard‘s legitimate purpose test copies one prong of the weakest standard of judicial review, the “rational basis” test, which was originally created for Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection cases. Under this test, every law is constitutional so long as the government has a “legitimate” purpose, and the law has a “rational” connection to that purpose.

Fortunately, gun control has not been politically popular in Louisiana in recent decades. So even though the state’s courts have essentially nullified the constitutional right to arms, Louisiana’s firearms statutes are not, in general, oppressive.

In the November 2012 referendum, Louisiana citizens will be given the opportunity to remedy the wrong decisions in Blanchard and Amos. Voters can adopt new constitutional language: “The right of each citizen to keep and bear arms is fundamental and shall not be infringed.  Any restriction on this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.”

If adopted, the referendum would make two direct changes:

1. For the first time in Louisiana, concealed carry would be constitutionally protected. This makes sense, because in the 21st century (unlike in the 19th), concealed carry is most common way that Louisiana citizens exercise their right to carry handguns for lawful protection. Like most other states, Louisiana has a statutory system by which concealed carry permits are issued under fair and objective standards.

2. The judicially-imposed “legitimate purposes” test (the weakest test) of judicial review would be replaced by the strongest test: strict scrutiny. Under “strict scrutiny,” the burden of proof is reversed; the government bears the burden of proving that a gun control law is constitutional. To pass strict scrutiny, a law must be proven to serve a “compelling state interest” (not merely a “legitimate purpose”). Even if the law does advance a compelling state interest, the law is constitutional only if the government additionally proves that the law is “narrowly tailored” and is the “least restrictive means” to advance the compelling state interest.

Louisiana would be the first state to write the “strict scrutiny” standard into its constitution. This would become the model in other states for significantly strengthening protection of their own constitutional right to arms. So it is unsurprising that the proposed amendment is strongly supported by the National Rifle Association, the Louisiana Shooting Association, and Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is the most pro-right to arms Governor in Louisiana history, and a national leader on the issue.

Surprisingly, some people in Louisiana are opposing the Amendment on the grounds that it supposedly promotes anti-gun laws. For example, at this website, the author remains invincibly ignorant, even when the facts are patiently explained an attorney from the Louisiana Shooting Association. The website author wants to live in a world of absolute rights. Be that as it may, Louisiana today is not a state of absolute rights; it is a state where the right to arms essentially does not exist, as a matter of state constitutional law, as mis-interpreted by state courts. The amendment would remedy the misinterpretation, and make it drastically harder for future courts to uphold anti-gun laws.

A victory for the Louisiana referendum will profoundly strengthen the right to arms in Louisiana, and have significant positive effects nationally. A defeat would validate the actions of previously Louisiana judges in recent decades who deigned that the right to arms was unworthy of judicial protection.

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Podcast on the creation of the Second Amendment

Posted by on Jun 08 2012 | Constitutional History, Constitutional Law, guns, Militia, Originalism

For my co-authored textbook Firearms Law and the Second Amendment, I’ve been doing a series of podcasts on each chapter. Now available is the podcast for Chapter 4, which covers the Philadelphia Convention, the ratification debates, the creation of Bill of Rights, and St. George Tucker’s contemporaneous exposition of the original meaning of the Second Amendment.  The podcast is 45 minutes. Here are the links for Aspen Publishers web page for the textbook, and the Amazon page. It’s also available from BN.com (Barnes & Noble).

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D-Day thoughts

Posted by on Jun 06 2012 | guns, History, Militia, War and Armed Conflict

In a column from 2000, I examined what military historians suggest might have happened if the D-Day landings had been repulsed. Or what if they had taken place in 1943 instead of 1944? The short answers are that if D-Day had failed, Stalin would have ended up occupying almost all of German, which would have significantly changed the balance of power in the Cold War. Had the Allies invaded France in 1943, rather than invading Sicily, they probably would have made faster progress than they did in 1944. VE Day would have come a year earlier, with the Allies capturing most of Germany.

In 1994, Dan Gifford and I wrote that “D-Day was almost a German holiday.” That is, in the darkest days of the war, defending U.S. coastal areas was a crucial concern. Fortunately, the states were able to call forth their self-armed citizen militias for coastal defense, while the U.S. Army and National Guard were busy elsewhere.

 

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New textbook: Firearms Law and the Second Amendment: Regulation, Rights and Policy

Posted by on May 15 2012 | Casebooks, guns, McDonald v. City of Chicago, Militia, Non-firearms Arms, Registration, Right to carry

The first law school textbook on the Second Amendment is now available from Aspen Publishers. The co-author are Nick Johnson (Fordham), Michael O’Shea (Oklahoma City), George Mocsary (Connecticut), and me. Here’s the publisher’s page for the textbook, from which professors can request a free review copy. The book is also available for civilian purchase from Amazon.

We also have our own website for the book. There, you can read the detailed Table of Contents, and the Preface. The website is in an early stage of development; eventually, it will include detailed research guides and topic suggestions for students who are writing seminar papers. If you a professor and one of your students writes a seminar paper which makes a genuine contribution to knowledge about a topic, we invite you to send the us paper for publication on the website.

The textbook will have an accompanying Teacher’s Manual. We are currently finishing that up, and aim to have it available before the Fourth of July. (It’s free for professors who get a review copy, and forbidden for anyone else.)

Besides the 11 chapters in 1,008 pages of the printed book, there will also be four more on-line only chapters, available to purchasers of the printed book. These chapters will be: 12, Social science about firearms policy. 13, International law. 14, Comparative law. 15, A detailed explanation of firearms and their function. (Chapter 1 of the printed book provides a brief explanation of firearms and their function; the on-line chapter will go into much greater detail [e.g., what is a lever action gun?], and will have illustrations and photos.)

Finally, Firearms Law is the first law school textbook to be the subject of a podcast series. The published podcasts are: Chapter 3, The Colonies and the Revolution. Chapter 2, Antecedents of the Second Amendment: From Confucius to the British Whigs. Chapter 1, An introduction to firearms laws and firearms function. As the summer progresses, we will be adding more, and some chapters may have more than one. Thus far, all the podcasts are interviews of me, but as we make our way through the book, other co-authors will also appear in the podcasts.

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How the British Gun Control Program Precipitated the American Revolution

Posted by on May 14 2012 | Constitutional History, guns, History, Militia, Religion, Religious Freedom

I posted a draft of this article a few months ago, and I thank VC readers for some helpful comments in improving it. The final version has been published by the Charleston Law Review, and is available on SSRN. Here’s the abstract:

This Article chronologically reviews the British gun control which precipitated the American Revolution: the 1774 import ban on firearms and gun powder; the 1774-75 confiscations of firearms and gun powder, from individuals and from local governments; and the use of violence to effectuate the confiscations. It was these events which changed a situation of rising political tension into a shooting war. Each of these British abuses provides insights into the scope of the modern Second Amendment.

From the events of 1774-75, we can discern that import restrictions or bans on firearms or ammunition are constitutionally suspect — at least if their purpose is to disarm the public, rather than for the normal purposes of import controls (e.g., raising tax revenue, or protecting domestic industry). We can discern that broad attempts to disarm the people of a town, or to render them defenseless, are anathema to the Second Amendment; such disarmament is what the British tried to impose, and what the Americans fought a war to ensure could never again happen in America. Similarly, gun licensing laws which have the purpose or effect of only allowing a minority of the people to keep and bear arms would be unconstitutional. Finally, we see that government violence, which should always be carefully constrained and controlled, should be especially discouraged when it is used to take firearms away from peaceable citizens. Use of the military for law enforcement is particularly odious to the principles upon which the American Revolution was based.

Readers interested in more detail on the role of gun rights and gun control in period leading up to the Revolution, and in the remainder of 18th century America, are encouraged to read Stephen Halbrook’s excellent book The Founders’ Second Amendment, which is the result of decades of work by Halbrook in finding primary sources of the period, including newspapers, correspondence, and diaries.

On a related topic, some readers might also be interested in my 2005 article The Religious Roots of the American Revolution and the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, detailing the role of Congregationalist and other ministers in inciting the Revolution, by explaining collective self-defense of natural and civil rights as a moral and religious obligation.

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Laws about gun ownership in early America

Posted by on Dec 09 2011 | Constitutional History, Election Law, guns, History, Militia, Political Ignorance, Religion and the Law, Right to carry

Regarding Eugene Volokh’s post below about an NYU L. Rev. article, “The People” of the Second Amendment: Citizenship and the Right To Bear Arms. I just scanned the article, and there appears to be only a single footnote which directly cites any state statutes from before 1800. Note 125, accurately cites standard statutory compilations from Massachusetts and Connecticut for laws against selling firearms to Indians. Although the author is apparently unaware that by 1661 (Connecticut) and 1688 (Massachusetts) the laws were changed to allow gun sales (and even gun carrying in towns) by friendly Indians. The article suffers very severely from its near-exclusive reliance on secondary sources for the pre-1800 period, especially since some of those sources are highly tendentious.

To summarize the information from Chapter 3 of my forthcoming textbook Firearms Law and the Second Amendment: Regulation, Rights, and Policy (Aspen Publishers, available in late Jan. 2012) regarding American law pre-1800:

Women: No restrictions. Of course they did not serve in the militia. Laws requiring “householders” (whether or not they were in the militia) to have arms were common, and these usually included a woman who was the head of the house (e.g., a widow).

Free blacks: Some states had no restrictions, some states had bans on their owning guns. Free blacks served in some state militia, not in some other states, and in some states policies changed depending on military necessity. They were excluded from the federal militia by the Second Militia Act of 1792.

Slaves: Several states banned gun ownership, or allowed ownership only with the master’s permission.

Poor whites: To claim that they were excluded from gun ownership or from militia service is absurd. There were absolutely no property or wealth restrictions on gun ownership, nor on service in the militia. To the contrary, many states had programs to supply poor people with guns (“public arms”) for militia service, if they could not afford their own. Further, the laws requiring householders to be armed often required that the household provide arms to adult male servants. State laws also required that when an indentured servant finished his or her term of service, the master must provide the former servant with “freedom dues” so that the servant could begin independent life. The freedom dues were specified set of goods; in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, freedom dues for male servants included a firearm. In short, the state laws of the 17th and 18th centuries in America were generally prescriptive about gun ownership by poor people, and the prescriptions were to put guns into the hands of the poor.

The author of the NYU article asserts that “arms bearing was considered congruent to voting, holding public office, or serving on juries.” That’s incorrect for “bearing” in the sense of carrying a gun for personal use, since there were no wealth, sex, age, or citizenship restrictions on carrying. And the claim is even more incorrect if “bearing” is meant in the restrictive sense of “bearing for militia service.” Militia laws always mandated service by all males (except, sometimes Blacks or Indians) in a certain age range. Period. The only exemptions were for specified professions (e.g., clergy). Militia duty was generally required starting at age 16 or 18 (which was before voting eligibility). Indeed, during the end of the 18th century and the early 19th century, one of the standard,successful, arguments for broadening the franchise by eliminating the property requirement for voting was that anyone who served in the militia deserved to vote. E.g., “Let every man who fights or pays, exercise his just and equal right in their election.” Thomas Jefferson letter to Samuel Kercheval, July 12, 1816.

Catholics: In Maryland, temporarily barred from gun ownership during the French & Indian War.

Dissenters: During the Revolution, there were plenty of instances of confiscating guns (sometimes with compensation) for militia use from people who would not take a loyalty oath to the new nation, or who would not serve in the militia (this included plenty of religious pacifists in Pennsylvania). During the early theocratic days in Massachusetts, 75 supporters of the religious dissident Anne Hutchinson were disarmed.

The author’s thesis is that illegal aliens and legal non-resident aliens should be allowed to own guns. Part of his argument is to construct and then criticize the supposedly historical “gendered,and class-stratified understanding of persons permitted to own guns.” The author could have made a stronger historical argument for his position if he had accurately described the gun laws of 17th and 18th century America.

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How the British Gun Control Program Precipitated the American Revolution

Posted by on Dec 07 2011 | Constitutional History, guns, Militia

That’s the title of my new law review article, currently in the editing process at the Charleston Law Review. A draft is available at SSRN, and comments are welcome. The final part of the article suggests how the history might inform our modern understanding of Second Amendment rights.

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The rise and fall of the Second Amendment “collective right”

Posted by on Sep 05 2011 | Collective right, Constitutional History, Constitutional Law, guns, History, Militia, Second Amendment, supreme court

My recent article for America’s 1st Freedom traces the rise and fall of the theory that the Second Amendment is not an individual right, but instead is a “collective right,” which, like “collective property” in a communist country, supposedly belongs to everyone collectively, but in fact belongs to no-one. The theory was created by a federal district judge in 1935, formally named by the New Jersey Supreme Court in 1968, and became popular among lower federal courts during the next quarter-century.

Historical and textual analysis made it increasingly clear that the theory was completely implausible, and it was unanimously rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller. In that case, all nine justices agreed that the Second Amendment right was individual, while they disagreed about its scope.

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The Bernardine Dohrn of the early 20th century: The terrorist professor at U of Texas law school

Posted by on May 24 2010 | Academia, congress, Constitutional History, Counter-Terrorism Policy, Criminal Law, Economic LIberties, education, guns, History, Law schools, Legal professor, Militia, Rehabilitating Lochner, William Simkins

(David Kopel)

My DU colleague Thomas Russell, who used to teach at the University of Texas Law school, has a written a paper, available on SSRN, which urges the University of Texas Law School to rename Simkins Hall, a law and graduate male student dormitory named for William Stewart Simkins. Simkins taught equity, contracts, procedure, and related topics at UT for three decades in the early 20th century. He was also a founder of the Ku Klux Klan in Florida, and every year at UT he gave a formal speech extolling the Klan.

Most of Russell’s paper concentrates on Simkins’ career at UT, as well as the 1954 decision (five weeks after Brown v. Board was announced) to name the dormitory after him. I was curious to learn more about Simkins had actually done with the Florida Klan, so I read Michael Newtown’s book The Invisible Empire: The Ku Klux Klan in Florida.

The Florida KKK organized in 1867–68. Simkins later described himself at the Klan leader in Taylor, Madison, and Jefferson counties. These three contiguous counties are part of the eastern panhandle, east of Tallahassee. As far as the record shows, Simkins never claimed that any Klan actions in those counties had been carried out contrary to his orders, or that he regretted anything the Klan did in those counties. Accordingly, it is plausible to hold Simkins personally responsible Klan activity there.

Federal troops were withdrawn from Florida in July 4, 1868. From July 8 through 14, five blacks were murdered by “white regulators.” In mid-July through October 1868, the Madison County KKK murdered seven more blacks, including Randall Coleman, a leading Republican.

In Taylor County, “masked night riders paraded with KKK flags and threatened farmers who refused to join the Klan.”

Florida’s Governor Reed had purchased two thousand muskets for the state militia. On the night of November 5, 1868, while the train carrying the muskets had stopped at the Greenville station in Madison County, Klan raiders removed all two thousand muskets–destroying some, and keeping the rest. Simkins later bragged that “Every telegraph operator, brakeman, engineer and conductor on the road was a Ku Klux.”

The Jefferson County Klan coerced white farmers into refusing to sell land to freedmen, or to taking the money, and then having the Klan drive the freedmen off his new freehold.

According to Newton, Madison County was the second-worst county in Florida for Klan violence, with 25 murders from 1868–71. The victims were always members of the Republican party.

On the night before the November 7, 1870, election, “armed riders invaded” the town of Madison, “harassing black voters.” On election day in Monticello, Jefferson County, “Georgia Klansmen joined the local mob and hundreds of shots were fired in a rioutous demonstration of white solidarity,” intended to frighten blacks against voting.

The election results left the state government weakly in reconstructionist hands. The store belonging to Madison County Sheriff Montgomery was burned on December 17.

Congress passed a new, stronger Enforcement Act in April 1871, and in November, a congressional subcommittee held four days of hearings in Tallahassee about Klan crimes. Even so, another Republican’s store was torched on November 6, 1871. However, President Grant’s October declaration of martial law in nine South Carolina counties had a chilling effect on the Klan, and by 1873, Florida Klan supporters were denying that there have had been a Klan in Florida, or were claiming that if there had been one, it was no longer active.

Simkins himself happened to leave Florida for Texas in either 1871 or 1873. (Sources conflict.) He particpated in two 1894 U.S. Supreme Court cases, Reagan v. Farmers’ Loan & Trust Co. and Reagan v. Mercantile Trust Co. He supported the Texas Attorney General’s argument that the judiciary had no power to review the reasonableness of railroad rates which had been established by the Texas Railroad Commission. The Supreme Court, in an unanimous opinion by Justice Brewer, disagreed.

That Simkins was an advocate of the unreviewable power of unreasonable government economic regulation should be no surprise. As David Bernstein explains in his book Only One Place of Redress: African-Americans, Labor Regulations, and the Courts from Reconstruction to the New Deal, the caste system of Jim Crow was founded on government power to prevent black and white people from freely choosing to engage in economic relations.

Last Friday, the University of Texas announced the formation of a special working group which will issue a report on the Simkins naming controversy by the end of June.

Simkins should have been denied admission to the Florida bar in 1870, based on his admitted role in the theft of firearms from the militia of the state of Florida, and his role in organizing and leading a terrorist organization which appears responsible for numerous homicides and many other violent felonies. In 1870, the Florida Supreme Court did not know of the evidence regarding Simkins’ terrorist crime spree in 1868–70,  but the 2010 working group will have more information.

Of course the fact that a person is an unrepentant, retired, terrorist is not necessarily a bar to being a professor at a prestigious law school–not for William Stewart Simkins at Texas in the early 20th century, or for Bernardine Rae Dohrn at Northwestern in the early 21st century.

Readers who are interested in more on the Simkins controversy may enjoy the blogging thereon at The Faculty Lounge, which has been covering the story since Russell released his paper.


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