A comprehensive history of one of America’s most hotly debated political issues.
“To say the history of gun rights is contentious would be an understatement,” writes military historian Charles (Historicism, Originalism and the Constitution: The Use and Abuse of the Past in American Jurisprudence, 2014, etc.), who questions the historical accuracy of arguments used by the National Rifle Association and other advocates of unrestricted gun use. The author casts doubt on readings of the Second Amendment that allow all citizens to carry loaded weapons at all times to all locales. As he notes, the Founding Fathers intended to restrict the arming of citizens to those serving in organized militias that could counteract repressive state power, rather than giving every citizen a right to bear arms. Though Charles writes that he does not oppose gun use, he is against the “negative stereotype used in contemporary gun rights literature” to call out those who do “not wholly subscribe to the tenets of gun rights theology.” The author adequately explains how he conducted his research, much of it based on records more than two centuries old; in fact, the endnotes consume more than 200 pages. Advocates who disseminate falsehoods for the NRA and additional fearmongering organizations, he writes, are simply ignoring historical accuracy. Charles demonstrates how British law formulated before the drafting of the U.S. Constitution fails to support the contentions of NRA lobbyists; as he painstakingly documents, British law favored restrictions on gun use. The author’s account of the rise, fall, and rise of the NRA is particularly meaty and brisk. Along the way, Charles explodes myths, often spread by NRA executives and lobbyists, about the alleged public safety impact of guns legally kept in every household. Though not always smoothly written, the book provides solid history that is welcome in our current political atmosphere.
An evenhanded book about a controversy that will not die.