There are those who argue that the Second Amendment guarantees an unrestricted individual right to gun ownership. If the original intention of the framers of the Constitution and Bill of Rights is to inform contemporary debates, then we must know more about the historical context in which these documents were written. This Article explores the nature and extent of gun laws at the time the Second Amendment was ratified by the states, as well as those laws passed in the shadow of this Amendment. The continuing efforts of states to control access to and use of guns once the Second Amendment was part of the Constitution seemingly indicate a lack of concern for an individual right to own a gun. The absence of notable opposition to such state action, even when it extended to disarming a portion of the population, speaks to popular attitudes that failed to see gun ownership as a protected individual right. At the same time, the federal government came to see public indifference to firearms ownership as a major threat to national security, and responded by slowly building a standing army and beginning a program to provide guns directly to members of the militia at no cost. But popular disinterest undermined both efforts, with government censuses repeatedly revealing a surprising dearth of guns in American life.

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