For the Defense of Themselves and the State: The Original Intent and Judicial Interpretation of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms

By Clayton E. Cramer | Go to book overview
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VIII. "A PROPER REASON FOR CARRYING A PISTOL"

Several dramatic social and technological changes took place during the 1920s, and each of these changes had a significant impact on popular perceptions of the right to keep and bear arms, and the judicial interpretation of that right. The first was a increasing willingness to deny a right to bear arms at all, even openly. A second change was the nativism that had been triggered by the rising tide of Southern and Eastern European immigration. Third, Prohibition dramatically increased violent crime in America. Fourth, the introduction of the Thompson submachine gun, and its highly publicized criminal misuse, brought about the first significant federal gun control laws. Nor were these factors isolated from each other: for example, the gangsters were often immigrants, or children of immigrants, and their criminal activity reinforced the nativist claims.

One of the ironies of the period between the World Wars is that significant restrictions on the open carrying of handguns began to appear throughout the United States--and the National Rifle Association was one of the promoters. There is significant disagreement among different sources as to the origin of the Model Uniform Firearms Act, widely adopted by the different states in the period between World Wars I and II. One source asserts that in the first three decades of this century, the NRA and the United States Revolver Association (no longer in operation), developed a model statute called, "A Bill To Provide For Uniform Regulation of Revolver Sales," promoted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws and adopted by most states.1

Another source indicates that it was called "A Uniform Act to Regulate the Sale and Possession of Firearms," and was a product of a committee appointed by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws in 1923, at the urging of the United States Revolver Association, with the final form adopted in 1930.2 A third source, largely in agreement, tells us that California's concealed weapon permit system, adopted in 1923:

was based on the Uniform Firearms Act (UFA) which purported to provide a uniform series of state laws on this subject. . . The UFA was a model act proposed by the United States Revolver Association in 1923. The Uniform Act was adopted by the National Commission on Uniform State Laws in the 1920s. Under the UFA and California law

____________________
1
Kates, "Handgun Prohibition and the Original Meaning of the Second Amendment", 82:209-10.
2
Gregory J. Petesch, ed., Montana Code Annotated, ( Helena, Mont.: Montana Legislative Council, 1990), 371.

-165-

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