Judicial interpretation of the Second Amendment provides a wealth of information with which to prove either the republican or liberal position, depending on which decisions are cited, and how selectively the quotes are made. Courts frequently make decisions on the narrowest possible grounds, in response to particular points of law raised by one side or the other; it is therefore remarkably easy to quote individual sentences from a decision that completely contradict the overall meaning of the decision. This is especially true when lawyers--trained for advocacy, not objectivity--are writing history. The only way out of the morass of selectively quoted decisions is to read the originals, in their entirety.
In addition, we will be examining at least three different sets of rights in this part of the book, each of which reflects a progressively greater set of restrictions on the individual: the right to concealed carry of arms; the right to open carry of arms; and the right to possess arms on private property. There are many variations, and in the next few chapters we will examine court cases involving a variety of combinations of types of arms, carry modes, and places of possession.
Federal laws regulating private ownership, transfer, or carriage of firearms appear to be relatively recent, at least as applied to the non-Indian population of the United States. In a sense, federal laws restricting sales of firearms to Indians were export controls on hostile foreign powers, even though these foreign powers were within the boundaries of the United States. These federal restrictions on sales to Indians appear at least as early as 1873, and were not abolished until 1979.1 State laws were also passed to restrict sales to Indians. While no attempt has been made to develop a comprehensive list of such statutes, Idaho, as one example, did not repeal a law prohibiting sales of firearms and ammunition to Indians until 1949.2
Even determining when the first federal laws appeared has been a frustrating experience. One source asserts that, "Federal involvement in firearms possession and transfer was not significant prior to 1934, when the National Firearms Act of____________________