Does the 2nd Amendment Cover Edged Weapons?

Hot Air asks.

Oddly enough, this is one place where the originalist and the progressive ought to agree: one regularly hears progressive arguments that the 2nd should only cover weapons suitable for militia service in 1791. For example:

Swords were certainly part of at least the officers' equipment in the early Georgia militia, as were bayonets -- or at least they were supposed to be: a report from a rural Georgia militia in 1807 showed no bayonets, but at least one horsewhip and an umbrella. In spite of the intended "regularity" that is intended by the "well regulated" comment in the Second, irregularity was more commonly the order of the day in the poorer, less-industrial United States. Shotguns were very common (a fact apparently unknown to the US Supreme Court when it decided U.S. v. Miller, the most important 2nd Amendment case until Heller). Fighting knives weren't officially specified since bayonets were, but they played an important role among irregularly-equipped militiamen.

So the clear answer ought to be, "Yes, obviously." However, as with gun rights in general, knife rights fell into disuse and the disrespect of the law in the ensuing period during which the 2nd Amendment was treated as essentially null. There are all kinds of laws banning knives of various kinds, or beyond particular lengths; and for the most part, unlike gun laws, there are not exceptions for persons with permits.

Georgia is one case where the concealed weapons permit actually does permit knife carry as well, a matter in which I believe my own poor efforts were of some avail in persuading our state legislature. This year, the permit will really only apply to swords: any knife shorter than 12 inches will henceforth be unregulated entirely. The law will touch very few knives: the largest Bowie knives, machetes, and I suppose misericordes.

Swords technically will require the permit, but no one has ever asked me to see one when I've been carrying a sword around Georgia. They're unusual enough that everyone assumes, I suppose, that they're for some sort of historical re-enactment and thus nonthreatening.

So it's a good idea to consult your legislature about fixing the laws in your state. If you are looking for an organization to help you along, similar to the NRA but for knives, try the American Kife and Tool Institute, and also -- and more aggressively, to their credit -- Knife Rights.


J Melcher said...

Was the tomahawk not a regular edged weapon of the Revolutionary Army?

Grim said...

I don't think so. A "hatchet" was one of the items to be possessed and kept in good order by members of Rogers Rangers, but they weren't part of the Revolutionary Army. Rogers was turned down in his offer to serve under George Washington, so he went to the British side instead. He did serve under Benedict Arnold, after the treason.

Our 75th Rangers claim a connection to Rogers Rangers, but as you can see, it's somewhat indirect. In any case, it would be hard to call Rogers Rangers a "regular" unit.

Grim said...

Oddly enough, though, the law rarely seems to treat hatchets as weapons rather than unregulated tools. Probably there are special event situations -- government run buildings like courthouses or jails, maybe major sporting events -- where they'd be forbidden along with things like lead pipes that might just be dangerous. But in terms of carrying one in your car, a hatchet is usually not considered an issue. Yet they're every bit as dangerous as knives, or even swords if you know what you're doing.

E Hines said...

The New Jersey Supreme Court has provided a partial answer.

Eric Hines

Tom said...

Wasn't artillery also allowed under the 2nd A?

MikeD said...

The vast majority of cannons during the Revolutionary War were privately owned. This tends to shock people who believe that the 2nd Amendment only protects muskets, because "that's all they had back then".

Grim said...

That's right. Private warships were also allowed, and they were armed with cannons too.

Eric Blair said...

Entrenching tool. Heh.

Tom said...

I dig it, Eric.

So, we should film a counter-ad where we pull a 74-gun ship of the line up and level the building, right?