This Article discusses the English background to the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and undertakes to contest the prevailing opinion that the old medieval English duty of service in the militia, imposed theoretically on all males between the age of sixteen and sixty, was transformed at the time of England's Glorious Revolution in 1688–89 into the right of the individual to keep and bear arms. The author of that thesis, Professor Joyce Malcolm of Bentley College in Massachusetts, maintains that Article VII of the Declaration of Rights, 1689 (better known as the Bill of Rights, its statutory form) secured that right and bequeathed it to the American colonists who, when drafting the Second Amendment, broadened that legacy, sweeping aside "limitations" and forbidding any "infringement" upon the individual right to possess arms. This Article, however, argues that this thesis is unacceptable and offers a reading of the evidence and of the nature of late-seventeenth-century England society and thought that is different from that of Professor Malcolm. This Article maintains that throughout its long history, the English government, for reasons that changed over time, took steps to limit and/or supervise the possession of guns. At no time did majority opinion hold that there was either a natural law right or a constitutional right of all individuals, not even all Protestant individuals, to have arms. There was no unrestricted English right of the individual to possess guns for the colonists to inherit.

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