The Earliest Attempts at Gun Control in America

I just finished reading a biography of Ethan Allen, one of my childhood heroes.

I grew up in part of the country where we fought much of the American Revolution, prior to that we fought the French and Indian Wars in the same area.

One of the forts I visited as a child was the fort portrayed in Last of the Mohicans.

During the Revolution, Crown Point and Ticonderoga were contested territory.

Vermont was a republic before it joined the US.  Prior to becoming a separate state it was made up of conflicting land grants bestowed on both people from New Hampshire and people from New York.  People who never so much as visited the land the British rulers gave them.

Taxes were not the only issue that sparked the American Revolution.

The British also tried to seize the weapons of the American people.  Weapons that ranged from muskets to cannon used to defend from attacks by Indians.


Because the American Revolution had been building for years.  Acts of resistance, boycotts and simple defiance in the face of British rulers attempts to control the unruly colonials.

The British attempts to seize the guns of Americans are the why of the first part of the Second Amendment. They are the why behind many statements by Paine, Jefferson and others that suggest an armed populous is necessary to guard our hard won rights and freedoms.

But there remains that second nagging part, the one the gun grabbing elitist always whip out.  The part about the “well regulated militia” came about as a result of Shay’s Rebellion.

Now they generally gloss over Shay’s Rebellion when they are teaching American History.

The powers that be generally like the American Revolution tied up in a nice neat package or perhaps a couple of nice neat packages: The War and The Writing of the Constitution.

Shay’s Rebellion was an armed uprising that took place in central and western Massachusetts in 1786 and 1787. The rebellion was named after Daniel Shays, a veteran of the American Revolutionary War and one of the rebel leaders.

The rebellion started on August 29, 1786. It was precipitated by several factors: financial difficulties brought about by a post-war economic depression, a credit squeeze caused by a lack of hard currency, and fiscally harsh government policies instituted in 1785 to solve the state’s debt problems. Protesters, including many war veterans, shut down county courts in the later months of 1786 to stop the judicial hearings for tax and debt collection. The protesters became radicalized against the state government following the arrests of some of their leaders, and began to organize an armed force. A militia raised as a private army defeated a Shaysite (rebel) attempt to seize the federal Springfield Armory in late January 1787, killing four and wounding 20. The main Shaysite force was scattered on February 4, 1787, after a surprise attack on their camp in Petersham, Massachusetts. Scattered resistance continued until June 1787, with the single most significant action being an incident in Sheffield in late February, where 30 rebels were wounded (one mortally) in a skirmish with government troops.

The rebellion took place in a political climate where reform of the country’s governing document, the Articles of Confederation, was widely seen as necessary. The events of the rebellion, most of which occurred after the Philadelphia Convention had been called but before it began in May 1787, are widely seen to have affected the debates on the shape of the new government. The exact nature and consequence of the rebellion’s influence on the content of the Constitution and the ratification debates continues to be a subject of historical discussion and debate.

Many of the soldiers who had fought the Revolution had suffered greatly and were angry when they saw the same basic ruling class that had been in power prior to the Revolution were still in power.  The only  thing that had changed was that the American ruling class was no longer controlled by the British King.

Those in power have always been uneasy regarding firearms in the hands of the common people.

In 1789, while the Constitution was being enacted along with the creation of the Bill of Rights which contains the Second Amendment the French Revolution erupted.

The peculiar phrasing of the Second Amendment reflects that hesitancy about allowing people to have the arms to defend themselves. Those very same arms are the arms that could be used to overthrow a government that had become so onerous that rebellion was preferable to tyranny.

It speaks highly to the strengths of our form of government that this country has only once erupted in civil war.  Our roots in the British legal System as well as our protections of the rights of individuals have kept this nation together in spite of the horrible war when brothers killed brothers.

We have to guard our rights as enumerated in both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, all our rights.  Including our ability to keep guns and our rights to communicate our thoughts to others without fear of a secret police force reading our email or listening to our phone conversations.

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