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To learn more about the engraver of the 17th-century head-piece pictured to the left, see the IN BRIEF biography for Wenceslaus Hollar.

This detailed study of our founders’ gun laws (pre- and post-Second Amendment) is the first entry in She-philosopher.​com’s new series on the 17th-century historical context for Anglo-American gun culture.
  Forthcoming essays in the series will cover such topics as the first automatic weapons (and other fantastical military hardware) from a late-15th-century military treatise ... the character question (“good guys with guns”) ... the random gunshot that almost brought down Elizabeth I (in 1579) ... one of the first drive-by shootings (in 1682) ... women warriors (“Feminine Cavaliers”) in fact and fantasy ... and militarized recipes for “Triumphs and Trophies in Cookery” (pies filled with live frogs and birds, and ships with cannon that fire, with the food serving up table-top drama “which makes the Ladies to skip and shreek” and “will cause much delight and pleasure to the whole company” during holiday banquets in noble households, such as that in which Margaret Cavendish was raised).

Two of this nation’s founding gun-control laws, passed in 1686 and 1694 in the most “rebellious” of the Anglo-American colonies (East New Jersey) are documented in She-philosopher.​com’s comprehensive study of California’s flawed “Good Neighbor Fence Act of 2013” (California Assembly Bill 1404).
  Like the early Virginia statutes described here (main body text to left), these 17th-century laws, passed by this country’s first representative institutions, puncture 19th- through 21st-century mythologizing about the foundational status of gun rights in the U.S. (including the 19th-century marketing campaign persuading us that “guns are what make you free”).

A detailed discussion of the first published debate concerning gun control in the United States is available at our sister project known as Roses. See that website’s digital reissue (2014) of Thomas Tryon’s anti-gun polemic, The Planter’s Speech to his Neighbours & Country-Men of Pennsylvania, East & West-Jersey ... (1684).
  A prefatory discussion of Tryon’s early contribution to the gun culture debate in America is available at the Roses website’s What’s Blooming news page (entry dated 5/9/2014).
  And see also that website’s news blog entry posted on 3/26/2018 for more historical facts about guns & gun culture in 17th-century Virginia.

For more on the history of guns in the U.S., see the PBS NewsHour feature, “Firearms Museum Takes Aim at Understanding History, Culture of Guns” (first aired 12/16/2019).
  SUMMARY: “Wyoming is the least populous state in the U.S. but ranks near the top in per capita gun ownership. It’s also home to the nation’s most comprehensive collection of historical firearms. Jeffrey Brown reports from Cody, where a renovated firearms museum traces the role guns have played in shaping American history and urges visitors to come to their own conclusions about their place in society today.”

The proud display of guns at gun shows (vs. museums) has catalyzed the gun-control debate in California.
  A new state law, which takes effect in 2021, bans gun and ammunition sales at state-owned venues, such as the Del Mar Fairgrounds in north San Diego County, where the Crossroads of the West Gun Show has been a biannual attraction for decades. The gun show event was again held in December 2019, after being suspended in 2018, but its future is uncertain, pending litigation, as reported by Morgan Cook in “Backers, Foes Rally as Gun Show Returns to Del Mar Fairground” (San Diego Union-Tribune, 12/15/2019, p. A3).
  Gun show supporters — “sane, trained, law-abiding gun owners who want to assemble, want to get together and learn, and meet with each other and transact business legally and use things responsibly” — contend that gun shows are good family entertainment, and “it’s important that people have access to meet gun enthusiasts, to have a place to go and meet and learn best practices and see some of the new equipment that is out. It’s a lot of fun.”
  Gun show opponents counter that “easy access to guns” should not “be advertised as family-friendly because women and children are so often victims of domestic violence homicides, the rate of which recent research has tied to gun ownership.” Nor is “a distaste for gun-enthusiast culture” driving local opposition: “This isn’t about culture [...] This is about the state being involved in promoting and profiting from the sale of firearms and ammunition on state-owned property. The government does not belong in this business.” (M. Cook, A3)

Gun show bans and other gun-control legislation enacted by the states are now being challenged at the local level, with the rise of “Second Amendment Sanctuaries.” (This is a case of compounding ironies: as I argue here, a sovereign state’s prerogative “to keep and bear arms” is what the original Second Amendment was all about.)
  The Second Amendment Sanctuary movement pits local elected representatives (sheriffs) against statewide elected representatives (governor and legislators) in a contest over state laws regulating guns (which supposedly violate the Constitution), giving sanctuary sheriffs the right to exercise “professional discretion” in choosing which state laws to enforce. (To reiterate, in pre- and post-revolutionary Anglo-America, any such rebellion against the provincial government would have been considered sedition, and put down accordingly.)
  Dueling op-eds over 21st-century “Second Amendment Sanctuaries” in California, Colorado, Illinois, Rhode Island, Texas and elsewhere were posted to the InsideSources.​com website on 12/18/2019:
  1. “POINT: Second Amendment Sanctuaries Reflect the Will of People Who Value the Constitution” by Teresa Mull.
  2. “COUNTERPOINT: Second Amendment Sanctuaries Are a Legal Fiction that Jeopardize Public Safety” by Chelsea Parsons.


NEW  For more on local pushback against state gun-control laws — “including universal background checks, assault weapon bans and red flag laws that would allow authorities to temporarily take guns away from people deemed dangerous to themselves or others” — in 21st-century Virginia, seeSecond Amendment Sanctuary Push Aims to Defy New Gun Laws” by Denise Lavoie of the Associated Press (posted to the AP website, 12/21/2019).
  In Virginia, which happens to be home to the National Rifle Association’s headquarters, “The counties are saying, this stuff is unconstitutional. We don’t want it, we don’t want to enforce it, and in most cases, we won’t enforce it,” according to Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League. And at least “One Virginia sheriff has vowed to deputize thousands of county residents ‘to protect their constitutional right to own firearms.’” (D. Lavoie, n. pag.)
  But as I have documented (at left) here, the state legislature’s right to control guns, including the arming and disarming of individuals, dates to the founding of this country (scil., the first gun control law passed by the Virginia House of Burgesses on 5 March 1623–4).


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First Published:  23 November 2019
Revised (substantive):  10 January 2020


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17th-century head-piece showing six boys with farm tools, by Wenceslaus Hollar

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