The Supreme Court looks at medieval England in gun rights cases

The Supreme Court is preparing to decide whether the Second Amendment gives Americans the right to carry a loaded gun when they leave home—some judges are looking back to England in 1328 for answers.

The focus of contention is the meaning of “the right to hold and carry weapons”, which was added to the constitution in 1791 and expanded by the High Court in 2008.

In the dispute to be debated on Wednesday, the newly strengthened conservative Supreme Court majority will have the opportunity to further expand the rights of gun owners.

The late Justice Antonin Scalia asked the court to conduct a historical investigation when he wrote the first opinion in support of an individual’s armed rights.

Prior to this, the Second Amendment had been interpreted by the courts as applying to the right of states to establish “well-managed militias,” rather than the right of individuals to own firearms.

However, Scalia, who died in 2016, successfully advocated an interpretation of the constitution based on his original understanding of the constitutional provisions. He said that the Second Amendment “codified a pre-existing right brought from England to the American colonies.”

The “foundation time” of this country, He wrote in the District of Columbia and Haierr, “The right to own weapons has become the basis of English subjects.”

The 5-4 decision overturned an unusually strict gun control law in Washington, D.C., and held that law-abiding residents have the right to keep a pistol at home for self-defense.

Now, in the New York case that will be heard this week, the court is facing a more important ruling: Do Americans have the right to carry weapons while driving, walking on the street, or participating in protest gatherings?

This is a test of gun rights and originality.

One group The famous historian recently told the court Even using Scalia’s basic principle of relying on gun rights as understood by the old English, the court should conclude that there is no right to carry weapons in public.

They stated that England “has no right to carry guns or other dangerous weapons in public based on the general interest of self-defense. For centuries, both British and American laws have restricted the right of individuals to carry weapons openly—especially in densely populated places, especially in densely populated places. When there is no special need for self-defense-to maintain public order and public peace.”

The organization pointed out that from the late 1200s, kings issued a notice prohibiting the carrying of weapons when traveling in public or entering the city of London.

In 1328, the Parliament passed the Northampton Act, which stipulated that “no one, big or small, except the king’s servant is present,” no matter day or night, in fairs, markets… anywhere “Or “confiscate their armor…, their bodies are imprisoned in the joy of the king.” “

The decree remained until the mid-20th century and was adopted by several colonies in the late 1700s, and has now become the center of the debate about the “pre-existing right” to become the Second Amendment.

Gun rights advocates refuted the medieval law and stated that it was only meant to limit “dangerous and unusual weapons” that would “frighten” the public. But others, including most historians, say this reflects the tradition of restricting dangerous weapons in public places 700 years ago.

Saul Cornell, a historian at Fordham University, is one of those who is skeptical of the wide range of weapons rights from Britain to this country.

“They are inventing a historical tradition, not discovering one,” he said of gun rights advocates. “Few British historians believe that there was or ever had a broad basic right to travel with weapons anytime and anywhere.”

Brown University historian Tim Harris grew up in South London and received his degree in Cambridge. He also found that it is “weird” for Americans to view England as a source of gun rights.

He pointed out that the Game Acts of 1671 and 1693 restricted guns to elites who owned large amounts of property and were vulnerable to poaching.

“In my opinion, the British legal precedent has been misunderstood and misused in an attempt to support a broader interpretation of the Second Amendment,” he said.

New York, like California and the five other states, has strict restrictions on who can obtain a permit to carry hidden guns. Usually, gun owners need to prove that they have “justified reasons” or “special needs” to arm them.

Despite Heller’s decision and the objections of Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., and Neil M. Gorsuch, these laws have been upheld for the past decade.

However, after Judge Amy Connie Barrett arrived earlier this year, the court agreed to hear a constitutional challenge to New York law. When two men from the Albany area filed a lawsuit after the county judge rejected their application for a general permit to carry pistols because they did not face “any special or unique danger.” They obtained permits to carry guns for hunting and target shooting.

Washington attorney Paul D. Clement, former US Attorney General and Scalia clerk, represented them and the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association. He urged the court to rule that the “right to bear a weapon” protects the right to bear a weapon to open the gun.

“The text and well-documented history of the right to hold weapons in the United Kingdom and the United States” and Heller’s decision “clearly point out that the Second Amendment not only protects the right of individuals to possess weapons within the family, but also protects the rights of individuals carrying weapons when they go out. right,” He writes for the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association.Against Bruen.

He cited the Northampton decree, but stated that it was only aimed at restricting “unusual weapons” and not “ordinary weapons for self-defense.”

Like Scalia, he relied heavily on the British Bill of Rights of 1689. After the Catholic James II was deposed for disarming Irish Protestants and other crimes, Parliament passed a new declaration of rights.

One person said: “As Protestant subjects, if permitted by law, they may have weapons suitable for their situation for defense.” Clement believed that when the British established that they had “self-protection and defensive weapons” When it comes to rights, the “root” of the Second Amendment is here.

Lawyers in New York portray a different history. “Since the Middle Ages, laws on both sides of the Atlantic have broadly restricted the public from carrying guns and other lethal weapons, especially in densely populated areas.” They told the court.

The most thorough court opinion on the history of gun rights and the Second Amendment was written by Judge Jay Bibi, appointed by President George W. Bush. In March, he spoke on behalf of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals by a majority of 7 to 4 and rejected the idea of ​​the right to hold weapons in public.

“Our review of more than 700 years of Anglo-American legal history reveals a powerful theme: the government has the power to oversee weapons in public squares,” He wrote in Young vs. Hawaii.

He wrote: “Indeed, we cannot find the universal right to carry weapons into public squares for self-defense.” “The outline of the government’s power to control weapons in public squares is at least this: the government can control or even prohibit public places- Including government buildings, churches, schools, and markets-openly carrying capable small arms are hidden, whether they are hidden or open.”

In this case, not all history is medieval. A briefing submitted by retired judge J. Michael Luttig and several top Washington lawyers urged the court to pay attention to the rebellion of President Trump’s supporters on January 6 and imagine the influx of thousands of armed protesters into the Capitol.

Two days before Trump’s planned “stop theft” rally, the Washington Police Chief warned that carrying guns in the District of Columbia was illegal and “will not be tolerated.”

They wrote that this warning “undisputedly prevented more bloodshed and undoubtedly saved many lives during the riot” and “most likely prevented a massacre.”

If the court decides to support broad armed rights, “Imagine what the law enforcement will face if future protesters—whether motivated by conspiracy theories, police shootings, or any other motives—come to the streets with legally armed guns. Difficulties… Adopting portability,” they said, “will add fuel to the fire of future political conflicts in our country.”

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