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The Founders' Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms (Independent Studies in Political Economy) Hardcover – April 18, 2008


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Product Details

  • Series: Independent Studies in Political Economy
  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Ivan R. Dee/ Independent Institute; 1st edition (April 18, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566637929
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566637923
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 6.4 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #784,091 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The U.S. Supreme Court's recent hearing of arguments in District of Columbia v. Heller—which may overturn the capital's ban on handguns—signals a general re-evaluation of the Second Amendment. The trend is toward an unlimited individual right rather than a restricted, collective one applying only to government militias. Halbrook, a research fellow at the Independent Institute in California, is firmly of the former school and investigates the nature of the ideas underlying the Second Amendment during the Revolutionary generation (between 1768 and 1826). How did the founders regard the issue of gun control? What prompted them to define the right to bear arms as fundamental, second only to freedom of speech? Basing his research on contemporary newspapers, political resolutions and private correspondence, Halbrook delves deeply into the importance of firearms during the Revolution, finding that attempts by search-and-seizure to control the flow of guns was regarded as the typical tyrannical behavior of a standing army. Liberty hinged on free ownership. While readers might disagree with some of Halbrook's historical interpretations, his book should be welcomed as a timely introduction to this most contentious of debates. (June)
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Review

Stephen Halbrook's The Founders' Second Amendment is first-rate work, utterly convincing. This is a solid and important work. (Forrest McDonald )

I enthusiastically recommend Stephen Halbrook's book, The Founder's Second Amendment. This is an original and valuable approach, focusing on the place of individual ownership of firearms during the time of the American Revolution and the drafting and ratification of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. It will add appreciably to the scholarship on the origins and meaning of the Second Amendment. (Joyce L. Malcolm )

The Founder's Second Amendment is an impressive achievement. Halbrook shows conclusively to any honest mind, both in respect to historical evidence and analytical jurisprudence, that the Framers intended the Second Amendment not as the reserved right of a State government to organize a militia, but of the people as individuals to keep and to bear arms. In this meticulously researched and exhaustive study, Halbrook has produced what promises to be the standard work for years to come on the original intent of the Second Amendment. It will be an invaluable resource for scholars of the Constitution. (Donald W. Livingston )

Stephen Halbrook's The Founders' Second Amendment is crisply written, rich with history, and sure to be valuable to anyone interested in understanding the original meaning of the Second Amendment's right to bear arms. (Glenn Harlan Reynolds )

Like much of Halbrook's other excellent work, The Founders' Second Amendment is both well-written and full of fascinating details. It will serve as an important resource for professional scholars and interested laypersons. One especially useful aspect of Halbrook's work is that the author so consistently lets a huge variety of original sources speak for themselves. (Nelson Lund )

Historian and philosopher Stephen Halbrook is the single most prolific researcher on the Second Amendment, having contributed literally dozens of scholarly articles on various aspects of the subject. The Founders' Second Amendment masterfully both extends and summarizes his (and others') research. It is the last word—the single most comprehensive work on the thinking of the Founding Fathers' era about the constitutional right of citizens to be armed.
(Don B. Kates )

The subject of The Founders' Second Amendment is currently 'front-and-center' as a 'hot' and major controversy. Well researched and well presented, Halbrook's book has brought forward a substantial amount of new research, not redundant of what others have provided, and this book will find a solid place among leading works on the subject. (William W. Van Alstyne )

A timely introduction to this most contentious of debates. (Publishers Weekly )

The book is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to form a knowledgeable opinion on the meaning, application and reason behind the Second Amendment. (New American )

The depth and detail added to source material quotes makes this a fine pick for both college and high school collections strong in American history and politics. (Midwest Book Review )

[Halbrook] covers the Second Amendment's historical underpinnings from 1768–1826, and so offers readers a rich interpretive framework from which to grasp the U.S. Supreme Court's (conservative) decision in June 2008 . . . affirming the constitutional right of individuals to keep guns at home.
(CHOICE )

Stephen P. Halbrook's new book represents the most careful and well-thought-out study yet in support of the politically ascendant claim that the Second Amendment, as originally intended and understood, protects a right to own guns for purposes other than service in the lawful militia. (William G. Merkel American Historical Review )

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Customer Reviews

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Please read this book with a thoughtful and open mind.
Carl R. Stevenson
I am reading a very well researched book called The Founders' Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms by Stephen P. Halbrook.
Master of Cats
This book is very well written and provides a very well researched and educated history on the second amendment.
A. DeBellis

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

174 of 178 people found the following review helpful By Joseph P. Martino on October 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book isn't for everybody. For those to whom it's directed, it's excellent and I highly recommend it. In this review I'll try to help you understand whether this book is for you.

To begin with, even if you're a gun enthusiast, you may not be interested in the political and legal details that influenced the Founders in writing the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. This book delves into those details with enthusiasm (Halbrook is a lawyer, and a good one). Don't buy it if those would leave you cold.

For those who want the details, however, this is an excellent source. Halbrook explains in great depth the growth of the "gun culture" in colonial America, and the efforts of the British government to stifle that culture. Most gun enthusiasts probably know that the American Revolution was triggered by a "gun confiscation" mission ordered by General Gage, which led to fighting at Lexington and Concord. However, Halbrook describes the actions that led up to Lexington and Concord, from 1765 on, including embargoes on shipment of gunpowder to the Colonies, seizure of gunpowder from Colonial powderhouses, and eventually the confiscation of all firearms in Boston.

Halbrook gives only a brief treatment to the conduct of the Revolutionary War itself, except to note the importance of gunpowder smuggled in from the Dutch colony of St. Eustatia. However, the war is not his real focus. His emphasis is on how the Revolutionary War influenced the people who wrote the Constitution.

Halbrook goes into great depth on the debate over whether the Constitution should have a Bill of Rights. On the one side were the Federalists, who argued that a Bill of Rights might eventually become a ceiling over Americans' rights, instead of a floor under them.
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49 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on August 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
THE FOUNDERS' SECOND AMENDMENT: ORIGINS OF THE RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS considers the history of the constitutional rights of Americans to bear arms in early America from 1768 to 1826, offering up the first book-length account of these origins based on the Founders' own statements from newspapers, debates, and legislative resolutions. The depth and detail added to source material quotes makes this a fine pick for both college and high school collections strong in American history and politics.
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37 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Read for Fun on November 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book is a must read for anyone interested in our countries history and or how we started down the road to the 2nd Admendment. Well written and backed with facts and stories to make the history come alive.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Steve Johnson on January 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is, quite simply, the most important book I've ever read regarding the second amendment. The author uses our founding fathers words, very heavily footnoted mind you, to relate what they lived through and what ultimatley became the 2nd amendment. This is not a novel and it doesn't read like one. It is hard core fact! You should plan to go slow and drink in the history, our founders words, their character and their intellect. I dare say, as I read the book, I felt ashamed of who we have become as a people, of how we've allowed our rights, so bravely fought for by people who risked everything, to be diminished and stripped away. Do you know who Crispus Attucks was? What was significant about gunpowder? What significance does April 19th hold? What does 'Militia' mean, as written in the 2nd amendment? Who was that Militia? What does 'Well Regulated' mean as written in the 2nd amendment? Answers to these and many more questions will be given in the first 1/4 of the book!
Please, I beg you as a fellow American, buy this book and read it. You can't afford not to, and you will learn exactly what the 2nd Amendment really means. Please! Buy the book!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By S. Peek VINE VOICE on March 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is an extremely thorough examination of the history and meaning of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

No other part of the Bill of Rights is as regularly maligned as the right to keep and bear arms. In this scholarly text, Dr. Stephen Halbrook provides a wealth of evidence proving that this important part of the Constitution was clearly intended by the Founding Fathers to protect an individual right, and that it is not referring to the National Guard and it is not (just) about hunting, as many gun rights opponents falsely claim.

The author chronicles numerous quotes from the Framers of the Constitution, the Constitutional Convention, and the state ratifying conventions. He also examines the meaning of the words of the text and compares them to similar phrases in the Constitution.

Some of the conclusions are these:

Militia refers to the whole people, the British (and many others) have used gun control to subjugate the population, 'an armed populace was the cornerstone of the ideal polity ...', there was no controversy among the Founding Fathers about the importance of an armed population for securing liberty, an armed citizenry would prevent a federal tyranny, the European monarchies were afraid of an armed populace, and only individuals have rights whereas the United States and various states have powers.

There are many other important points in this fantastic book. I highly recommend it.
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