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The Second Amendment in Law and History: Historians and Constitutional Scholars on the Right to Bear Arms Hardcover – January 1, 2002


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

There are two opposing theories about what the Second Amendment was designed to protect. Over a century of federal court rulings have established that it guarantees the right to bear arms within an established (i.e., formal and public) militia. The first law review article asserting an individual's right to own firearms for self-defense (or sport) did not appear until 1960, and yet the balance has swung in the individualist direction, with Republicans, gun lobbyists and even high-profile liberals endorsing that view. This lucid 10-essay collection by historians and legal scholars soberly takes on the entire revisionist anti-gun control project. Setting the stage, Bogus and Robert Spitzer analyze its history of logic and legal scholarship. (Spitzer focuses on how student-run, non-peer-reviewed law journals are vulnerable to producing bodies of error-filled work.) Pulitzer winner Jack Rakove (Original Meanings) and Paul Finkelman argue that the amendment's original intent was to mediate state and federal power over militias, while Michael Bellesiles (Arming America) explores late 18th-century gun control. Steven Heyman explains how the natural law tradition supports a collective rather than an inalienable individual right. The most powerful essays take dead aim at the practice of "law office history," whereby quotes and passages favorable to the individual rights side are excerpted without regard to a document's larger context. This outstanding discussion will appeal mainly to those most passionately committed to the issue of gun ownership, but it will inform discussions in the media on a heated subject.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

The articles in this collection support an interpretation of the Second Amendment as a collective rather than an individual right the right of the states to maintain an armed militia. The authors draw on documents from the time of the amendment's ratification, relevant historical events in Britain and the United States, and legal analysis. Authors discuss state/colonial gun control already in place in the 18th century, the contrast between the militia then and today's National Guard, and what the authors believe are the fallacies of the argument that the amendment protects an individual right to own firearms. The contributors, including well-known scholars, are all academics, mostly in law but also in political science and history. This is a clear, thorough, well-documented look at the historical and legal record. There are hundreds of books available on the right to bear arms, but few scholarly books on the history of the Second Amendment. Highly recommended for academic and larger public libraries. Mary Jane Brustman, SUNY at Albany Libs.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 358 pages
  • Publisher: New Press, The (January 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565846990
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565846999
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #541,267 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Carl T. Bogus is the author of two books -- "Buckley: William F. Buckley Jr. and the Rise of American Conservatism" and "Why Lawsuits Are Good for America: Disciplined Democracy, Big Business and the Common Law" -- and the editor of a third book about the Second Amendment. In addition to professional journals, he has written for The Nation, American Prospect, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Washington Times, Providence Journal, and other periodicals. He describes himself as a "liberal Burkean." That label may strike some as an oxymoron, but people who read "Buckley" or Bogus' article "Rescuing Burke" will undertand what he means. He teaches at the Roger Williams University School of Law in Rhode Island, and lives in Washington, DC. Learn more about Carl T. Bogus; access many of his articles, talks, and interviews; and read his blog EDMUND by visiting www.carltbogus.com.

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4 of 10 people found the following review helpful By PB on March 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover
... does not mean you get to re-write history. Yes I can see why those who support individual gun rights would take issue with this read. However the work is cited and sourced by academics of the highest quality, their interpretations and opinions are supported by facts. As late Sen. Moynihan said, "you are entitled to your own opinions not facts".
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12 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Michael W. Martinez on August 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover
To point out just one, Michael Bellesiles (author of Arming America), had his Bancroft prize revoked after it was revealed he had falsified his sources. Using him as a contributer is like using Jayson Blair to write an article about the 1st Amendment.
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11 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Jason M. Rogers on January 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book is well writen with a very "scholarly" air. However well writen, the conclusions reached in each essay are wrong. The fact that the term "the People" everywhere else in the U.S. Constitution refers to an individul right of the people is never addressed. Also completly neglected are the writings of the framers that support an individual rights veiw. This book belongs in the trashbin of history.
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16 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I thought that this book was very informative and thought provoking. It examines the difficulties of understanding and applying the second amendment in our modern day world. Although the second amendment is often used by the pro-gun lobby to justify its opposition to gun-control, no second amendment challenge to a gun control law has ever been successful in the federal court system. In fact, gun control laws have been around for over 200 years so apparently the founding fathers didn't see the second amendment as a barrier to such laws. Examples of early gun control laws are the forbidding of carrying concealed weapons and disarming anyone who would not swear loyalty to the state they lived in. The first article in a law journal advocating an individual right to bear arms was published in the 1960's. Before that, the consensus had been in law journals that such a right was exercised only in connection with a well regulated militia. Just what is the well regulated militia of the presented day? Federal law and the Supreme Court have defined it as the National Guard. The second part of the second amendment speaks of the people. What did the founders mean when they referred to the people? Some would like to think that they meant each adult individual. However, this understanding is not consistent with the way the word is used in other parts of the constitution. In the preamble of the Constitution, the founders refer to themselves as "We the People." Obviously not each adult individual in America was involved in writing the Constitution. The first amendment speaks of "the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.Read more ›
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