Mark W. Smith

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Often hailed as the father of modern criminology, the writings of the prominent eighteenth-century Italian thinker Cesare Beccaria were deeply influential on the American Founders’ views of criminal law and theory. Courts, lawyers, and legal observers recently have begun to appreciate Beccaria’s influence, including on such timely topics as the pardon power, the theory of criminal sentencing, and the moral implications of the death penalty. But another topic Beccaria wrote about with great influence has been largely neglected: the individual right to keep and bear arms. This article seeks to correct this gap in the current scholarship surrounding Beccaria’s thought and influence on the right to keep and bear arms. I first demonstrate that Beccaria’s writings were known by the Founding generation and deeply influenced them. Next, I highlight the areas of criminal law and theory where courts and commentators have begun to appreciate Beccaria’s important guidance. Finally, I point out that Beccaria’s equally significant writings on the right to keep and bear arms, and the law concerning firearms, have gone largely ignored in the literature and judicial opinions, and argue that the same considerations that have spurred courts and scholars to revisit Beccaria’s writings in other areas should lead them to recognize, and be affected by, his contributions in the area of Second Amendment jurisprudence.