"The Right to Bear Arms" in the State Declarations of Rights
Like other perceived oppressions, the British attempts to disarm the inhabitants of Boston over the period 1768-1775 were widely reported and criticized in the newspapers of the other colonies. When independence was finally declared and the time came to adopt constitutions, eight of the new states adopted formal declarations of rights. Four of these states--Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Vermont, and Massachusetts--explicitly recognized a right to bear arms. The adoption of these declarations of rights and other manifestations of a right to bear arms in those four states are analyzed in this chapter.
The constitutional convention of Pennsylvania, presided over by Benjamin Franklin, met from July 15 through September 28, 1776, a longer period than most state conventions. 1 The Virginia Declaration of Rights had been published in Philadelphia just over a month before the convention began. 2 From the beginning, a majority in the convention were Associators, members of armed associations. 3
Initially, eleven persons were appointed to the declaration of rights committee. 4 The session on July 25 approved the Declaration of Independence, and appointed James Cannon and Colonel Timothy Matlack to the committee for bringing in an essay for a frame of government. 5