What did the Founding Fathers think about our right to keep and bear arms? According to historian Saul Cornell, founders like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Madison would be far more likely to side with Everytown for Gun Safety than the National Rifle Association if they were alive today, because in Cornell’s view, the early republic was chock full of restrictions on gun owners.
In a new piece at The Conversation, Cornell lays out five types of gun laws that he says the Founders wholeheartedly embraces, starting with gun registration laws.
Today American gun rights advocates typically oppose any form of registration – even though such schemes are common in every other industrial democracy – and typically argue that registration violates the Second Amendment. This claim is also hard to square with the history of the nation’s founding. All of the colonies – apart from Quaker-dominated Pennsylvania, the one colony in which religious pacifists blocked the creation of a militia – enrolled local citizens, white men between the ages of 16-60 in state-regulated militias. The colonies and then the newly independent states kept track of these privately owned weapons required for militia service. Men could be fined if they reported to a muster without a well-maintained weapon in working condition.