A Right to Bear Arms: State and Federal Bills of Rights and Constitutional Guarantees

By Stephen P. Halbrook | Go to book overview

Preface

The federal Bill of Rights was not a falling star that James Madison picked up off the ground in 1789 and introduced in Congress the next day. Nor was it simply the result of demands in the state ratifying conventions that the Constitution framed at Philadelphia two years earlier include a statement of individual liberties on which the new government could not infringe.

Beginning in the summer of 1776 when independence from Britain was declared, half of the states adopted bills of rights, much of the language of which would reappear in the federal Bill of Rights. And while none of the other states adopted bills of rights at that time, similar conceptions of personal liberty existed in those states as in the states with formal declarations. The articulation by the colonists of their grievances for rights violated in the decade before the war for independence, and the assertion of their rights in the state bills of rights, constitutions, and legislation as well as in newspapers and in the writings of the "founding fathers" of the individual states, are all sources of the federal Bill of Rights.

Moreover, the state bills of rights remain a primary barrier to overreaching governmental intrusions at the state and local levels. The state bills of rights and the sources of each are currently undergoing rediscovery as alternative grounds to the federal Bill of Rights to protect personal freedoms.

Perhaps the most controversial but least understood part of the federal Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment provides: "A well regulated Mi-

-vii-

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