The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America

Book - 2011
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"Author Adam Winkler, a professor of Constitutional law, uses the landmark 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller, which invalidated a law banning handguns in the nation's Capitol, as a springboard for a historical narrative of America's four-centuries-long political battle over gun control and the right to bear arms. From the Founding Fathers and the Second Amendment to the origins of the Ku Klux Klan, ironically as a gun control organization, the debate over guns has always generated controversy. Whether examining the Black Panthers' role in provoking the modern gun rights movement or Ronald Reagan's efforts to curtail gun ownership, Winkler weaves together the dramatic stories of gun rights advocates and gun control lobbyists, providing often unexpected insights into the venomous debate that now cleaves our nation"--Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York :, W.W. Norton & Co.,, [2011]
Edition: First edition.
Copyright Date: ©2011
ISBN: 9780393077414
Branch Call Number: 344.730533 WI
Characteristics: xi, 361 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, portraits ; 25 cm
Alternative Title: Gun fight


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Apr 27, 2020

Former Chief Justice William Brennan famously described the idea that the second amendment gave carte blanche to gun owners as "a fraud on the American public." This insightful and through look at the history of gun rights and the efforts to control guns takes a measured look at an incredibly divisive issue. The writer is a law professor and so focuses on the legal aspects of the debate, occasionally getting bogged down in case studies. I'd also recommend "Loaded."

Feb 21, 2018

This may be a good book, but I probably won't bother reading it for the obvious reason: awhile before the recent local election in Seattle, people my age or older would approach me for a signature on a referendum to attempt to remove Big Money from our local elections. I questioned the use of such a move given the consistent low voter turnouts [in the last presidential election which gave us Donald Trump, 49% of registered voters bothered to vote; locally it was even worse in Seattle, where only 37% of registered voters bothered to drop, or mail in, their voter ballots - - it is done by mail or locally placed ballot boxes in Washington state]. The same applies to the gun control issue - - vocal non-voters are numerous today, but they simply don't count. . . .

Feb 18, 2018

Winkler's book seems like a sincere attempt to conscientiously wrestle with one of the most contentious issues of current US politics. Thus, I would recommend it as a good starting point for others who seek to do the same. However, he is definitely on the gun control side of the gun policy continuum and readers who want to be well-informed on the issue will need to go beyond Winkler's contribution.

See my select Winkler quotes on the "Quotes" tab.

Oct 27, 2016

I recommend it. Winkler follows the progress of Heckler v Washington DC to the final supreme court case all the while going back through American history to tell the story of gun regulation in this country. The solution to gun violence will require a very rare commodity these days: compromise.

unbalancedbutfair Aug 09, 2013

Easily one of the fairest books on this subject. It follows the legislative track of Heller V DC showing the behind the scenes aspects of the legislation. Along the way the book traces the history of firearms and the people who care deeply about them. Whether that care is hatred or adoration, or somewhere in between. I do think the author's biases unfortunately bleed through. The worst example I saw was equating registration laws that required all males of age to own and maintain firearms due to militia service in the 18th century with modern calls for registrations of anyone who happens to own a firearm. There are very large very important differences between these practices and to equate them indicates a slight bias against firearms. Still. In general he has written an informative, readable account of issues and idiocy on both sides of the debate and for that he deserves applause. Anyone who wants a picture of this debate would be well served by adding this to their reading in the area.

Mar 25, 2013

Well written, fairly balanced overview of the two hardened American extremes of gun ownership vs. gun control. Written by a professor of law at the University of California, it is nevertheless easy to follow the historical arguments, contradictions and absurdities put forth by both sides of a debate at the core of the American reality that puzzles and confuses the rest of the world.


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Feb 18, 2018

"Gun rights advocates managed to defeat registration and licensing by arguing that such measures would lead eventually to confiscation of all civilian guns. In the House of Representatives, The Michigan Democrat and NRA board member John Dingell warned his colleagues that the Nazis adopted mandatory registration and used the records to disarm the Jews and political dissidents ... While others dismissed the analogy to the Nazis, it didn't help that [US Senator from Connecticut] Thomas Dodd had in fact asked the Library of Congress to provide him with a translation of the German laws of the 1930s when he was drafting his bills ..." p. 252

Feb 18, 2018

"Not only did killing [in Washington, DC] become more common after the [1976] gun ban, but guns also became a more common way to kill." p. 42

Feb 18, 2018

"Used to losing battles over gun control, gun controllers latch onto any proposal popular enough to make it through the legislature—usually right after some school shooting or other tragedy. Whether or not a proposed law will actually curb gun deaths is irrelevant; gun control extremists will stand behind it." p. 35

Feb 18, 2018

"Few people realize it, but the Ku Klux Klan began as a gun control organizations; after the Civil War, the Klan and other violent racist groups sought to reaffirm white supremacy, which required confiscating the guns blacks had obtained for the first time during the conflict. To prevent blacks from fighting back, the night riders set out to achieve complete black disarmament. In the 1960s, race was also central to a new wave of gun control laws, which were backed by liberals and even some conservatives, like Ronald Reagan. Enacted to disarm politically radical urban blacks, like the Black Panthers, these laws sparked a backlash that became the modern gun rights movement—a movement that ironically, is largely white, rural, and politically conservative." pp. 13-14


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