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That Every Man Be Armed: The Evolution of a Constitutional Right, Revised and Updated Edition Paperback – 2013
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"The definitive book on the historical and legal development of the Second Amendment and our right to bear arms." --Senator Orrin G. Hatch
From the Inside Flap
That Every Man Be Armed, the first scholarly book on the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, has played a significant role in constitutional debate and litigation since it was first published in 1984.
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Beginning back in ancient times, Halbrook shows us that the gun debate we now have in our society has been going on for more than two thousand years. Should private citizens be armed, or should only an elite few (the government) have arms? What we see is that even back in the days of Plato and Aristotle, when arms are only in the hands of elitists, those elitists quickly become tyrants. Aristotle was right: a free society is best defended by an armed populace.
We are also shown how the citizen army of the Roman Republic was slowly disarmed and replaced by an army of paid foreign mercenaries. It was Julius Caesar and his paid army of foreign mercenaries who destroyed the Republic and initiated several hundred years of totalitarian rule. At a much later time, another Italian famous for his knowledge of acquiring political power, Niccolo Machiavelli, believed quite the opposite. He was a tremendous supporter of an armed citizenry, and held it to be the best check against tyranny.
The immediate historical environment is established with a detailed examination of English history during the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, during which time royal decrees and numerous game and hunting laws were used to deprive the population of their arms to prevent uprisings against the Crown. Only "king's men" (again, paid soldiers) or "men of quality" (politically-connected landowners) were allowed to own firearms. However, these laws failed miserably, requiring the authorities to exert more severe and oppressive punishments upon the population. Such is the environment the American colonists found themselves in as the spring of 1775 arrived.
The middle part of the book, Chapters Three, Four, and Five, deal with more specific topics, and are the heart of the book's importance. Chapter Three covers the era leading up to the American Revolution and the writing of the United States Constitution. Chapter Four examines the Nineteenth Century up to the American Civil War, and Chapter Five examines the post-war era, with special attention to efforts to disarm the newly-freed slaves within the former Confederacy.
Our major point of learning from Chapter Three is that the framers of the Constitution did not dispute whether people had a right to own weapons; all concerned agreed that was a given right and not debatable, for it was the basis of maintaining a free society. The debate was over whether such a primal, inherent right needed to be included within the Constitution. Chapter Four continues on this theme, showing that court cases and state laws during the early part of the Nineteenth Century never disputed this fact. Only when we get to the Dred Scott case do we begin to see the politicizing of the right to bear arms. This case held that blacks were not people, partly on the reasoning that blacks were not allowed to own guns in many states, and owning guns was a basic human right.
Chapter Five contains a thorough and detailed examination of how the Democratic Party fought hard to deny the right to arms to newly-freed slaves in the southern states by passing specific, anti-black anti-gun legislation. We also see the relationship between these political actions and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, a group of militias formed to disarm and terrorize the black population. We still see the Democratic Party today trying to deny everyone this most basic of all human rights: the right to protect oneself from those who would cause harm.
The book concludes with a few chapters covering legal and legislative events of the Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries. An updated afterword is recent enough to give some coverage of the McDonald and Heller cases, which struck down handgun bans in Chicago and Washington, D.C., respectively.
The book does get a bit technical at times with quotes from legal decisions and court documents, but overall it is well-presented and easily readable. Stephen P. Halbrook has provided a great deal of critical background on an important topic while keeping it accessible to all.
You might not like what it says. You might not agree with it. But, it's what they thought and did.
Yes, it's pro gun, the guy who wrote this is an nra lawyer I think. If you're anti gun, you might want to steer clear or use this for a bonfire.