Colonial Weapons Laws as Described by Michael Bellesiles

Clayton Cramer

ABSTRACT
Bellesiles cites an impressive array of primary and secondary sources to demonstrate that gun ownership by free men was tightly regulated in Colonial America. His claim to this effect has begun showing up in decisions of the courts on the meaning of the right to keep and bear arms provisions of both federal and state constitutions. Examination of Bellesiles' sources for this claim show that they are sometimes irrelevant to his claim or fail to support his claim. In most cases, however, the statutes Bellesiles cites directly and unambiguously contradict his claim. Other primary sources not cited by Bellesiles also contradict his claim of distrusted and disarmed free men.

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Updated 05/20/2006