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2010

Human Rights Law

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Full-Text Articles in Legal History

The Right To Arms In The Living Constitution, David B. Kopel Jan 2010

The Right To Arms In The Living Constitution, David B. Kopel

David B Kopel

This Article presents a brief history of the Second Amendment as part of the living Constitution. From the Early Republic through the present, the American public has always understood the Second Amendment as guaranteeing a right to own firearms for self-defense. That view has been in accordance with élite legal opinion, except for a period in part of the twentieth century.

"Living constitutionalism" should be distinguished from "dead constitutionalism." Under the former, courts looks to objective referents of shared public understanding of constitutional values. Examples of objective referents include state constitutions, as well as federal or state laws to protect ...