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

By Stephen P. Halbrook | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
"A Well Regulated Militia" in the State Declarations of Rights
Four of the states which adopted declarations of rights-- Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and New Hampshire--did not explicitly use the words "a right to bear arms." However, the declarations of these states did uphold "a well regulated militia," meaning that that body of the people would be trained to arms to counter the real or potential oppression of a standing army. Moreover, recognition of a right to bear arms was manifested in these states in sources other than the declarations of rights. In fact, the conventions of Virginia and New Hampshire insisted that a federal bill of rights be adopted and that it recognize the right to bear arms. The following analyzes the perceived nature of a well regulated militia and the right to bear arms in the above four states.
VIRGINIA

The Declaration of Rights
Virginia was the first of all the colonies to adopt a bill of rights, which became the prototype for those of other colonies. The Virginia Declaration of Rights, adopted in convention on June 12, 1776, included the following interconnected propositions:
A. That all Men are by Nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent Rights . . . ; namely, the Enjoyment of Life and Liberty, with the Means of . . . pursuing and obtaining . . . Safety.

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