The Right to Regulate Arms in the Era of the Fourteenth Amendment: The Emergence of Good Cause Permit Schemes in Post-Civil War America
Scholarship on the history of firearms regulation during Reconstruction has lagged far behind studies of early American gun regulation. This essay collects and analyzes evidence about Reconstruction-era firearms regulation and summarizes these findings. Reconstruction ushered in one of the most intense periods of gun regulation in American history. The Republicans who framed and enacted the Fourteenth Amendment were eager to protect the Second Amendment rights of recently freed persons, including an individual right of self-defense. But Republicans were equally committed to enacting strong racially neutral gun regulations, aimed at reducing interpersonal violence and preserving the peace, a task vital to the success of Reconstruction. Scores of new regulations were enacted and one of the main goals of these laws was to limit the public carry of weapons. These laws were not driven by racial animus, as some gun rights advocates have erroneously claimed, but sought to protect vulnerable populations in the South, including former slaves and Republicans eager to further the aims of Reconstruction.