In his first book, Daily Beast columnist Winkler (Constitutional Law/UCLA) takes on the contentious issue of gun control in the United States.
There have always been plenty of guns in America, but also plenty of gun control. For the author, there remains a need for both, yet extremist positions have emerged on both sides. “Gun nuts” argue for the absolute right of individuals to arm themselves, “gun grabbers” for a complete ban on all privately owned guns. The Second Amendment to the Constitution has been of little help, as it is not clear if the Amendment meant simply to ensure the formation of state militias or indeed gave the individual the right to bear arms. In 2008, a Washington, D.C., law banning all handguns was challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court, thus putting to the test the meaning of the Second Amendment. The unifying thread of the book is Winkler’s Grisham-like story of the personalities and issues surrounding this case. He also places the current debate within an often surprising historical context. Yes, the Founding Fathers expected white men to have guns for service in the militia, but they also surrounded such gun possession with rules and regulations. The Wild West was not so wild after all. Places like Tombstone and Dodge City had some of the strongest gun laws ever devised in America. Race has played a large part in gun control, as before and after the Civil War black Americans were often terrorized by armed whites, with little legal recourse to arming themselves for self-defense. In 1967, Gov. Ronald Reagan signed into law strict prohibitions on the carrying of arms after the Black Panthers marched into the California Capitol Building armed to the teeth. In the end, the Supreme Court struck down the D.C. law but also noted there remained the right of government to regulate gun ownership. Winkler writes that this decision may open the way for action to truly reduce gun violence, yet unfortunately offers few suggestions for what these actions might be.
Detailed, balanced and engrossing—sure to displease both sides of the gun-control debate.