While most people are probably familiar with the Second Amendment of the United States, many are unaware of its legal history. The Second Amendment says: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Did you know that before 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court had heard only a few cases concerning the Second Amendment? The cases are United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542 (1876), Presser v. Illinois, 116 U. S. 252 (1886), and United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939).
In United States v. Cruikshank, the U.S. Supreme Court was asked to overturn the convictions of members of an armed white militia that on Easter in 1873 attacked African American freemen who had gathered at a Louisiana courthouse to protect it from a takeover. Some of the freemen had weapons. A battle ensued. It’s estimated over 100 African-American freemen were killed, many after they had surrendered. Federal criminal charges were brought against members of the white militia. Some of the charges included violations of the Enforcement Act, which made it a crime for two or more people to conspire to deprive anyone of their constitutional rights. It was argued the freemen’s Second Amendment right to bear arms had been violated by the white militia.