Does the Plural “Arms” Imply Multiple Guns Per Person?

Eugene Kontorovich has posted (here and here) arguing that it would be unconstitutional to limit each person to carrying only one gun, because the word “Arms” in the Second Amendment is plural. I applaud his attention to text, and I am sympathetic to his bottom line, but I don’t find the textual argument persuasive. The heart of his argument is this:

Arms is a plural term, and the presumption should thus be that the right to bear them extends to more than one firearm. To be sure, “arms” is one of those terms where the plural can refer to the singular. But it is not one of those “sheep” words where there is no singular; arm, firearm, weapon or gun would all clearly indicate the singular, but those words were not used.

Yes, “Arms” is plural, and yes, one can write, for example, “firearm” or “gun” if one wants to clearly convey the singular. But a singular noun would not have worked in this context, because the Second Amendment (like the First and the Fourth; cf. the Ninth) protects a “right of the people” — plural. It would make no sense to say that “the right of the people to keep and bear gun shall not be infringed.” The plural “people” requires the plural “arms” — even if the idea were, in fact, one gun per person.

Again, I am sympathetic to Eugene’s ultimate conclusion. But the fact that “Arms” is plural does not prove the point.

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