Adam Winkler has become notable in our issue for pissing off both sides, which is a pretty good sign that he’s a moderate on the issue. But some of his assertions I don’t find persuasive, and others can be taken in such a way that they are misleading. Now it’s possible this individual is mis-stating something, but this is just wrong:
So it’s worth remembering: The gun lobby didn’t always lobby for free access to guns (particularly not for guns for African-Americans). And the folks who wrote the Second Amendment were all in favor of a “well-regulated militia” whose members — at that time, the general (white) populace — had to declare, register and present to government agents on a regular basis all of their firearms.
To the best of my knowledge there was never any requirement that people register their firearms with any colonial or early-American government. When turning out for muster, they would be expected to bring their personal arm, which they were required by law to own, and that arm could be inspected to ensure it was in serviceable condition, and that the individual had enough ammunition to comply with the requirements of the act. But it’s not like they punched serial numbers on guns back then. Serial numbers are actually relatively recent phenomena, I believe not in common practice until the 19th century, and even then not uniquely identifying until the mid-2oth century.
So equating the requirements of the various colonial or early American militia laws to the modern conception of universal registration is a bit disingenuous. No one in colonial times was keeping records of the guns owned by your average John Smith militia member. It’s certainly valid to suggest that the founding generation were strong believers in the militia requirements of the day, which compelled able bodied men (and sometimes women) to arm themselves, keep their firearms in serviceable condition, and report periodically for muster and drill. It’s also valid to suggest that many founders, who didn’t view African American as citizens, or even individuals imbued with the same human rights as white folk, understood that many laws at the time disarmed blacks. But I’m not sure how that should inform us about the validity of modern gun control any more than it should inform us about the validity of anti-miscegenation laws. The pretext for many of the laws whic barred non-citizens from firearms ownership are repugnant to modern society, so I’m not sure they ought to inform us as to whether many modern forms of gun control are fine.