A Well-Regulated Militia: History of the Second Amendment

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A Well-Regulated Militia: History of the Second Amendment
Saul Cornell
Professor of History, Fordham University
June 16, 2015

Professor Cornell delves into the complicated history and interpretation of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. He argues that the amendment neither guarantees the right to own guns nor simply protects the rights of states to maintain militias—the two most common modern interpretations of the amendment. The American founders understood the right to bear arms as neither an individual nor a collective right, but as a civic right—an obligation citizens owed to the state to arm themselves so that they could participate in a well-regulated militia.

Part 1 of 17: Introduction (4:25)

Part 2 of 17: Newtown and 18th-Century Gun Regulation (5:22)

Part 3 of 17: Why Does the History Matter? (3:07)

Part 4 of 17: Militia and the Right to Bear Arms in 18th-Century America (2:24)

Part 5 of 17: Fear of Standing Army (3:09)

Part 6 of 17: Disarmament in Early America (3:57)

Part 7 of 17: Federal and State: Sharing the Militia (3:02)

Part 8 of 17: Early Proposed Protection of Right to Bear Arms (3:52)

Part 9 of 17: Militia in the Federalist Papers (3:22)

Part 10 of 17: Military Reform under Washington’s Presidency (2:04)

Part 11 of 17: Whiskey Rebellion (3:07)

Part 12 of 17: Guns in 19th-Century America (3:16)

Part 13 of 17: Abolitionists and the Right to Bear Arms (3:06)

Part 14 of 17: Reconstruction Era South and the Militia (4:03)

Part 15 of 17: Lawyers vs. Historians’ Use of History (3:01)

Part 16 of 17: Dichotomy Emerges in the 20th Century: Individual v. Collective Rights (2:06)

Part 17 of 17: Modern Second Amendment Case Law (4:38)


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