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View Diary: What you may not know about gun violence in Chicago (335 comments)

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  •  If you are a member at nytimes.com (1+ / 0-)
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    nominalize

    or if you have some other way to access old newspaper databases, you might be interested in replicating a casual research project I did yesterday. Go into their search function and enter the phrase ”bear arms”, then display the results in ascending order chronologically, starting from the oldest possible date (1851).

    Among other interesting things,* you will see some of the earliest 2nd Amendment related arguments against gun control, some of them in Chicago (but none before 1900). You will also see that in the early 20th Century, the arguments against gun control were virtually identical to those being made today. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

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    * My purpose was to see how often this phrase was used outside of a military context. I found no examples before 1900. It was shortly after that year that the phrase “right to bear arms” appeared as such. Most common 19th Century example: swearing not to bear arms against the United States as part of post-rebellion loyalty oaths; second most common: referring to bearing arms in the lead up to or during the Civil War. I did find one single 19th Century example, without looking for it, of “to bear a gun”, in the context of the more general “bear arms”; this indicates that the more general meaning of “to bear” can sometimes be applied to weaponry, although it is relatively rare. (And it is always amusing to find “bear arms” being used in its heraldic sense.)

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