A collection of scholarly legal and historical essays that unanimously dispute the credibility of individualist interpretations of the Second Amendment.
His numerous law review articles on the subject made Bogus (Law/Roger Williams College of Law) a natural choice to assemble this compilation of ten important articles about the American right to bear arms. The essays, by distinguished scholars like Pulitzer Prize–winning Jack Rakove, collectively argue that historians and lawyers who interpret the Second Amendment as protection of the individual citizen’s right to own firearms do so only by twisting historical facts. Bogus’s introduction maintains that the individualist interpretation of the amendment did not gain academic or legal respectability until late in the 20th century. A closer inspection of these individualist arguments, he asserts, establishes that the framers of the Constitution clearly intended the Second Amendment to protect a state militia’s check on potential misuse of the federal standing army. Other contributors offer different perspectives on this same basic interpretation. Steven J. Heyman contests the idea that the amendment protects a natural right to rebellion; Lois Schwoerer challenges the argument that British legal precedent provides a foundation for the individual right to bear arms; Michael Dorf notes both how little historical evidence supports the individualist argument and how it has become constitutionally meaningless for 21st-century America. Since all the impressive scholarship on display builds from the same basic hypothesis, however, it becomes increasingly redundant. The narrow focus on historical considerations ultimately raises suspicions that this tendentious volume protests too much.
Even so, anyone interested in either side of the divisive Second Amendment debate will profit from reading this collection—the pro-gun audience to approach their argument more thoughtfully, the anti-gun people to acquire fresh ammunition for their views.