Mini-Series on Historical Gun Laws: Felons, Foreigners, and Others Deemed Dangerous

This week, we’re fortunate to have a three-part series by one of the Center’s excellent summer research assistants, Catie Carberry. Catie’s posts will provide an overview of the historical gun laws in the Center’s Repository of Historical Gun Laws, the largest publicly available single-site compilation of historical regulations of firearms. The Repository is the result of more than four years of painstaking research, but makes no claim to completeness. Rather than purport to include every firearm-related law (an impossible task), it is designed to provide a broad, deep, and representative sample of the kinds of gun laws that have existed throughout English and American history.

All three posts in Catie’s series will focus on trends in laws currently in the Repository that are categorized as dealing with “Felons, Foreigners and Others Deemed Dangerous by the State.” The mini-series is not meant to be a comprehensive summary of all historical laws addressing the subject, and some of the trends may highlight areas where the Repository is missing regulations. The series is meant to provoke those questions as well as describe the laws currently in the Repository. (Some laws that Catie discusses are recent discoveries that we are in the process of uploading to the Repository.)

The first post will address laws concerning aliens and nonresidents. The second will describe laws disarming those “disaffected to the cause of America.” And the last will deal with felons and the mentally ill.

The Repository’s laws can tell us some really interesting things about trends, geographic variation, and historical understandings of firearms regulation; we hope it spurs scholars and researchers to delve deeper into these questions. Some interesting academic articles already flesh out this particular category of gun regulations well, including:


If you know of any laws that fit these categories and are not in the Repository, please let us know!