Why the Second Amendment is not an individual right

The false belief that the Second Amendment confers an (absolute) individual right continues to prevent us from regulating guns, with tragic consequences. Yes, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority (5), declared that it was an individual right based on an original intentist interpretation of the amendment. Therefore, we must abide by this interpretation as long as Heller is in force, but that does not mean that Scalia’s interpretation of the history is correct. One of the problems, among many others, with original intent as a method for interpreting the Constitution is the fact that justices are not historians.  Too often original intent has been used to mask the individual preferences of the particular legal scholar. After spending years studying the history of the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment this fact has become all too clear.

If we are ever going to significantly decrease the senseless killings (as well as the large number of accidental deaths and suicides) that are made possible by the unregulated gun market, we need to debunk the Second Amendment myth that gun ownership is an individual right that can never be infringed. Gun regulation will not completely eliminate gun violence, but it can significantly decrease the violence (as it did in Australia).

Therefore, I want to include a few links by two prominent historians and one legal scholar who show why the Second Amendment fundamentalists are wrong:

  1. “To Keep and Bear Arms,”: This essay by Gary Wills is long, but worth it. He carefully and comprehensively destroys the arguments of what he calls the “Standard Model” school (i.e. the Second Amendment dogmatists who insist that the amendment confers to them an absolute individual right).
  2. The brief from the Pulitzer Prize winning historian Jack N. Rakove in the Heller decision.
  3. “How the NRA Rewrote the Second Amendment,” written by the author of The Second Amendment: A Biography, Michael Waldman. This essay deals more with the political movement that created the Second Amendment orthodoxy that now plagues us.

Please read and share these links!


“Why Aren’t Pro-Life Evangelical Christians Appalled by America’s Record of Gun Violence?”|History News Network

Lawrence Wittner’s answer: “The embrace of guns by many white Protestants is bolstered by a number of arguments linked to their religious assumptions. One contention is that the United States was established by God and, therefore, the Second Amendment to the Constitution (which they allege guarantees individual gun ownership) is sacred. Another is that depriving people of ‘self-defense’ deprives them of a God-given right. In addition, they tend to believe that corrupt, un-Christian values, rather than the easy availability of guns, lie behind the frequency of gun massacres.” This sounds about right to me. But now what? There is no amount of reasoning or evidence that would convince them to change their mind on gun control.
Wittner also speculates on the reason why the U.S. has such a high gun death rate.
Read the entire article here:

History News Network | Why Aren’t Pro-Life Evangelical Christians Appalled by America’s Record of Gun Violence?



“Guns Were Much More Strictly Regulated in the 1920s and 1930s than They Are Today” | History News Network

Robert J. Spitzer gives a brief overview of gun regulation in the 1920s and 1930s, and concludes that “guns were much more strictly regulated decades or even centuries ago than they are today.” This is a pretty narrow slice of gun control history on which to base such a broad conclusion, but looking at the “Table of Contents” from his book (Guns Across America) it looks like Spitzer’s conclusion is grounded in a much broader history of gun control from the founding to today.
Despite its brevity, Spitzer’s summary of gun control in the 1920s and 1930s is very interesting. To read his summary go here:

History News Network | Guns Were Much More Strictly Regulated in the 1920s and 1930s than They Are Today.

guns across america