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Friday, August 23, 2013

The Right Not to Bear Arms

The Huffington Post reports about a development in Nelson, Georgia's new firearms ordinance.  Enacted in April, the ordinance originally mandated firearm and ammunition ownership (with some exceptions for convicted felons, those with physical or mental disabilities, or those who object to gun ownership).

After being sued by the Brady Foundation, Nelson agreed to amend its ordinance, with the text of the amendment now recognizing the right of citizens not to bring firearms into their homes.  Unfortunately, this issue will not go to court, which prevents clarification of whether there is a right not to bear arms and the scope of this right.

I find this issue interesting because it reminds me of Joseph Blocher's recent article in the Stanford Law Review entitled The Right Not to Keep or Bear Arms.  Here is the abstract:

Sometimes a constitutional right to do a particular thing is accompanied by  a right not to do that thing. The First Amendment, for example, guarantees both  the right to speak and the right not to speak. This Article asks whether the Second Amendment should likewise be read to encompass both the right to keep or bear arms for self-defense and the inverse right to protect oneself by avoiding arms, and what practical implications, if any, the latter right would have. The Article concludes—albeit with some important qualifications—that a right not to keep or bear arms is implied by what the Supreme Court has called the “core” and “central component” of the Second Amendment: self-defense, especially in the home.  Recognizing such a right might call into question the constitutionality of the growing number of “anti-gun control” laws that make it difficult or illegal for private individuals to avoid having guns in their actual or constructive possession.

While laws of mandatory gun ownership are certainly not as common as laws that restrict gun ownership, the Nelson situation illustrates that these cases sometimes do arise.

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