“I grew up at a time when people were not afraid of people with firearms. I used to travel on the subway from Queens to Manhattan with a rifle. Could you imagine doing that today in New York City?” So recalled U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia about his days as a schoolboy on a rifle team.

Scalia’s experience reflected a long tradition. For example, Gen. George W. Wingate, president of the N.Y. Public Schools Athletic League, wrote an essay titled Why School Boys Should Be Taught to Shoot? (1907). President Teddy Roosevelt wrote an afterword for it congratulating the New York pupil who was the best shot of the year.

The National Rifle Association was chartered in New York in 1871 by Gen. Wingate and Col. William Church for the purpose of promoting marksmanship. The New York legislature accommodated the NRA by funding a range at Creedmoor, Long Island.

The right to bear arms was respected in those days. The 1828 N.Y. Civil Rights Law, which is still on the books, states: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms cannot be infringed.” The state did not forbid carrying unlicensed, concealed pistols until 1881, while open carry went unregulated.

The Sullivan Law of 1911 was the first law in any state to require a license just to keep a pistol in the home. Carrying was banned without a license—and commoners need not apply. When the law could not be repealed, the NRA turned to the courts.