A Georgia Town Is Requiring Gun Ownership. So Did the Founding Fathers. | Smart News | Smithsonian
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A Georgia Town Is Requiring Gun Ownership. So Did the Founding Fathers.

A Georgia town may have just mandated gun ownership, but early Americans had the same idea back in 1792

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In 1794, troops armed by the 1792 Militia Act partook in suppressing Pennsylvania’s Whiskey Rebellion. Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art

In Nelson, Ga., the city council passed a new ordinance yesterday mandating that every head of household own a gun and ammunition.

The new measure—the Family Protection Ordinance—also requires that the heads of houses “provide for the emergency management of the city”and “provide for and protect the safety, security and general welfare of the city and its inhabitants,” says the Associated Press. As the AP notes, the town’s law is mostly political posturing—no one plans to actually enforce the law, and the ordinance bears no penalties for breaking it.

Though Nelson’s measure is new, the idea is a throwback to the foundations of the nation.

In 1791, the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution gave citizens the right to bear arms. The second Militia Act of 1792 mandated itThe Atlantic:

The Founding Fathers instituted gun laws so intrusive that, were they running for office today, the NRA would not endorse them. While they did not care to completely disarm the citizenry, the founding generation denied gun ownership to many people: not only slaves and free blacks, but law-abiding white men who refused to swear loyalty to the Revolution.

For those men who were allowed to own guns, the Founders… required the purchase of guns. A 1792 federal law mandated every eligible man to purchase a military-style gun and ammunition for his service in the citizen militia. Such men had to report for frequent musters—where their guns would be inspected and, yes, registered on public rolls.

On May 8, 1792, says History.com, the passing of the second Militia Act required “every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective States, resident therein, who is or shall be of age eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years be enrolled in the militia.”

The law didn’t just mandate gun ownership, it was actually incredibly specific about the kit you’d need to pack. According to Politifact you’d need:

“A good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch with a box therein to contain not less than twenty-four cartridges,” along with balls and gunpowder. A rifle could be substituted.

But the purpose of Georgia’s new gun mandate is also very different from this eighteenth century idea. It’s meant to act as a “security sign” for the town, says the AP. The 1792 Militia Acts were designed to establish State militia, the precursor to the National Guard, for the defense of the nation and the quelling of rebellion.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Open For Business: The 3D Printed Gun Store
The Navy’s Future Is Filled With Laser Guns
In Canada, People Gladly Trade in Guns for Shiny New Cameras
In 2010 $600 Million in Guns and Ammo Were Exported from the US

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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