Firearms Law Workshop Mini-Symposium, Part V: The Use of the Second Amendment to Reject Conscription

In 2019, national conscription, or the draft, no longer feels like the ominous threat to civil liberties that it once did. Today, American male citizens must still register at 18 and there are existing proposals and a national commission considering expanding the draft to include women. Yet, the first and most significant fight over the constitutionality of conscription occurred during the American Civil War. Constitutional conservatives believed the power to draft would lead to a consolidated, centralized and despotic national government. Looking to preserve the original structure of federalism, constitutional conservatives saw the Second Amendment as an additional bulwark against the expansion of federal power. However, the use of the Second Amendment was primarily used by lawyers and a handful of influential legally-trained politicians to bolster their core objections to conscription and never became central to constitutional challenges in the wider, popular debates.