BOOK REVIEW: GUNFIGHT

In his new book, Gunfight: The Battle Over The Right To Bear Arms In America, Adam Winkler, a law professor at UCLA, attempts to make the case for balancing the individual right to bear arms with regulation about gun control. He is convinced that neither a complete ban on gun ownership nor a society free of gun regulation is desirable.

Winkler fills his narrative with names and places which illustrate the historic roots of American gun culture and efforts to regulate gun ownership starting with the attempts of the British Crown to regulate gun ownership of the colonists to the latest mass murders.  Each story is evaluated in light of the words of the Second Amendment to the US Constitution about the meaning of the right of citizens to bear arms.

Cases before the Supreme Court are prominent in Gunfight since it is here that the fight to regulate gun ownership and use has been fought. Reading the book gives one some insight into how the Court functions. Winkler introduces us to some of the lawyers presenting arguments and some understanding of the way various Jurists arrive at decisions. Clarence Thomas never asks questions! Scalia makes the spectators laugh the most!

Another prominent theme is racism in the history of gun ownership and legislation about gun control.  Winkler traces efforts of the KKK and other groups to deny gun ownership to blacks and tells the story of the Black Panther organization struggles to carry weapons in public.

The National Rifle Association (NRA), of course, plays a big part in the story. Winkler points out that in the early history of the organization it did not emphasize the Second Amendment rights of gun owners. It started out favoring reasonable gun safety and became a militant anti gun lobby in 1977 claiming that all gun regulation starts down the path toward civilian disarmament.

As long as the subject of gun violence continues to be buried in the notion of Second Amendment rights no progress will be made and we will continue to read about massacres in schools and shopping centers forever. Basing arguments on individual rights is a dead end. Concerned persons need to change the discussion to one about what is good for the community regardless of individual rights.  Sometimes individual rights have to be relinquished in favor of the community. That’s what happened in the cigarette smoking debate when even second-hand smoke was known to be harmful.

If you groove on minute arguments about rights and the Second Amendments and the intricacies of the Supreme Court, read this book. Otherwise skip it.

3 Comments

  1. Phil, I’m impressed with your choices of reading material. You are broadening your scope – reading about gun control and Clarence Thomas!  But I’m going to skip this one, and just go with your suggestion to argue for the common good and not concentrate on individual rights!

    Nancy

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