|By the president
of the prestigious Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, the
life story of the most controversial, volatile, misunderstood provision
of the Bill of Rights.
|At a time of renewed
debate over guns in America, what does the Second Amendment mean? This
book looks at history to provide some surprising, illuminating answers.
Amendment was written
to calm public fear that the new national government would crush the
state militias made up of all (white) adult men—who were required
own a gun to serve. Waldman recounts the raucous public debate that has
surrounded the amendment from its inception to the present. As the
country spread to the Western frontier, violence spread too. But
through it all, gun control was abundant. In the 20th century, with
Prohibition and gangsterism, the first federal control laws were
passed. In all four separate times the Supreme Court ruled against a
constitutional right to own a gun.
The present debate picked up in the 1970s—part of a backlash to
liberal 1960s and a resurgence of libertarianism. A newly radicalized
NRA entered the campaign to oppose gun control and elevate the status
of an obscure constitutional provision. In 2008, in a case that reached
the Court after a focused drive by conservative lawyers, the US Supreme
Court ruled for the first time that the Constitution protects an
individual right to gun ownership. Famous for his theory of
“originalism,” Justice Antonin Scalia twisted it in this
base his argument on contemporary conditions.
In The Second
Amendment: A Biography, Michael Waldman shows that our
view of the amendment is set, at each stage, not by a pristine
constitutional text, but by the push and pull, the rough and tumble of
political advocacy and public agitation.
The Second Amendment
by Michael Waldman
Simon & Schuster, 2014
discuss this title with the Outrider