09 July 2017

The Second Amendment: A Book Review

The Second AmendmentThe Second Amendment by Michael Waldman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


On the one hand, The Second Amendment: A Biography offers a fair summary of the framing of the Second Amendment, the paucity of interpretations of its meaning by the Supreme Court, the cultural shifts and advocacy that affected political power, and the novelty of the Heller decision. On the other hand, the book seems more of a skewed legal brief than the sort of history it advocates--thorough and dispassionate. The ultimate purpose seems to be advocacy that those who wish to restrict guns need to learn the methodologies of their enemies in order to turn the tide.

Michael Waldman offers a critique of Justice Scalia's decision in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), noting weaknesses that it reveals in Originalism when historical evidence is mixed or silent. He venerates Justice Stephen Breyer's dissent, and he suggests that lower courts are finding more of use there than in the majority opinion.

The book has merits. I learned from this book. It gave me things to think about and questions to pursue in further reading. The Second Amendment: A Biography offers historical analysis of the the era of the Framers, interpretations of the Second Amendment by the Court before Heller, the Revolt at Cincinnati (1977) that changed the direction of leadership for the National Rifle Association, the Heller and McDonald decisions, and how the these landmark Second Amendment decisions have played out in lower courts since 2010.

Dispite its seemingly comprehensive scope, it failed to meet my expectations. The author is smart and knowledgeable; he could have produced a better book. Perhaps he tried to do too much. Perhaps his political bias got in the way.

View all my reviews

1 comment:

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