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Guns? Yea, they can be regulated

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After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, I took to the books to better understand our obsession and history with guns. There are plenty out there, but I was looking for something to help with the understanding of the 2nd Amendment, because something rings false with the rhetoric by doomsday preppers and their rockstar. The best book I came across so far is the painfully balanced, middle ground seeking, Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America by UCLA constitutional law professor Adam Winkler (@adamwinkler).

You probably have heard or read his work since the shooting in Connecticut, although he wasn’t invited to the vice president Joe Biden’s committee, he probably needed to be.

I didn’t read Gunfight with the intention of writing a review, however, after seeing a flame out of unreasonableness on UpNorthLive’s Facebook discussion in response to Thursday’s White House recommendations, I thought I’d simply give a pitch to everyone: Winkler’s work is a fascinating read. It doesn’t matter whether you have your own arsenal in the closet or have never even seen a gun, most of what you understand about U.S. history will be challenged.

For instance, the District of Columbia vs Heller Supreme Court decision in 2008 is presented as the culmination of a three decade long effort to manufacture and reinterpret the 2nd Amendment to mean the protection of an individual’s right to bear arms, as opposed to the previous 200 years of understandingassumption that it applied to militias. He deconstructs the arguments, and personalities, on both sides and in narrative style brings the readers to the climax of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia’s majority opinion, when, despite his originalists branding, was anything but a strict interpretation of the constitution or the history. Sorry Ted, but there is no constitutional right to outfit your own individual military unity to fight against a theoretical monarch, however, now there is a clearer precedent for individuals to own certain types of guns.

That last part is key. It turns out, gun regulation has always been part of U.S. history and will continue to do be so. Past regulation even amounted to a registry of who owned what gun, as it pertained to a “well-regulated militia”. And the wild west? A myth. Most cities in the wild west had strict gun control requiring that all guns be turned in as visitors entered. Residents were often allowed to have guns at home (the long established Castle Doctrine), but strict regulations for public safety, and thus economic development, were enforced in public spaces–the newly created Stand Your Ground laws would be alien to the lawmen of the Wild West.

The lesson for the current discussion? Regulation isn’t confiscation and as he was quoted at a recent forum in D.C.

Buy Gunfight (Kindle), borrow it (TADL), or read the gist of his arguments on line here, here, or here. Or, follow him on Twitter for the latest–@adamwinkler

NOTE: Stretching beyond the normal blog topics with today’s post, but as we’ve discussed before, guns are an issue of public space when we are being asked to accept expanding stand your ground laws and concealed weapons in schools.

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