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Volunteers Dig Up Gun Enforcement History to Sway Courts

Since the Supreme Court's ruling last year that struck down bans on concealed carrying of guns and set a standard of review that prizes laws in existence before the 20th century, a volunteer force for the gun safety group Moms Demand Action has hit the history books to find examples refuting the notion of a free-for-all gun culture in America's distant past, Slate reports. Moms Demand Action, part of the gun safety group Everytown, is doing work that's by no means scholarly in its thoroughness. But they are finding multiple examples of the "historical analogues" that Justice Clarence Thomas challenged courts to cite before they uphold contemporary regulations.

The research can prove especially useful to the lawyers who litigate such cases. Thomas' decision said courts have no obligation to perform independent research in Second Amendment cases, or even satisfy themselves that they’ve amassed a fair and representative record. Rather, courts are “entitled to decide a case based on the historical record compiled by the parties." That can put government lawyers defending the laws at a disadvantage to well-funded gun rights advocates. “Almost every city had prohibitions on concealed carry,” said one volunteer, Bita Karabian. Not just license requirements, she noted, but outright bans: “One of their first acts was to make sure that people are safe, which meant not carrying concealed weapons.” Other ordinances outlawed the firing of any gun within the city. Everytown is compiling a list of their discoveries, currently at 159 laws, but did not share the list because it is incomplete. The volunteers note every gun-related law they come across, whether it loosens or tightens access to firearms, but the trend is overwhelming: In the 18th and 19th centuries, cities and states were far more concerned with keeping guns out of people’s hands, and away from public spaces, than with guaranteeing a right to bear arms.


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