U.S. Supreme Court to Determine Meaning of Second Amendment: News Releases: The Independent Institute

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News Release
June 6, 2008

U.S. Supreme Court to Determine Meaning of Second Amendment
New Book by Attorney Representing 300 Members of Congress in District of Columbia vs. Heller Reveals True Intent of the Founders

“ . . . a timely introduction to this most contentious of debates.”
Publishers Weekly

OAKLAND, Calif., June 6, 2008—After nearly 70 years of silence regarding the Second Amendment, the U.S. Supreme Court is presiding over District of Columbia v. Heller and is expected to render a decision later this month.

At issue, as attorney and Independent Institute Research Fellow Stephen P. Halbrook explains in his new book The Founders’ Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms (June 6, 2008 / Ivan R. Dee / $28.95), is whether the Second Amendment protects a citizen’s right to privately keep arms.

Many have argued that the language in the Bill of Rights refers only to individuals active in a militia, such as the National Guard. But as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has opined, and as a growing body of evidence seems to indicate, the “right of the people to keep and bear arms” may very well be personal.

Having won three cases before the Supreme Court, Halbrook filed an Amici Curiae Brief on behalf of 55 members of the Senate, the Senate President, and 250 members of the House of Representatives, available for download at: www.independent.org.

While many books have been penned on gun control and related issues, none have delved so deeply into the nature of the right to keep and bear arms as it was understood and practiced during the first generation of the American Republic. The Founders’ Second Amendment captures the intent of the Founders in their own words from newspapers, correspondence, and political debates and also draws on archival sources revealed for the first time ever. Thomas Jefferson, an avid gun collector, believed that “all power is inherent in the people . . . it is their right and duty to be at all times armed.” Samuel Adams understood that “peaceable citizens” should “keep their own arms.” And as Federalist Tench Coxe understood the right, it concerned “private arms.”

By placing historical events and their modern-day applications in context, Halbrook reveals how the intent of the Founders is hard to misinterpret. From the 1768 Redcoat occupation of Boston and disarming of citizens to the Declaration of Independence in 1776, Halbrook’s authoritative analysis of history demonstrates the great significance of this right to the Founders. When controversy ignited in 1787 over the ratification of a Constitution without a corresponding declaration of rights, compromise was only reached after James Madison drafted the Bill of Rights and later affirmed his association of republican government with an armed populace.

Now, more than 200 years later, as the Supreme Court weighs the arguments in the city known as Murder Capital U.S.A., Stephen P. Halbrook urges the Justices to recognize that the true meaning of the Second Amendment is as essential to the Bill of Rights as is that of the First.

Praise for The Founders’ Second Amendment

“ . . . first-rate . . . utterly convincing. This is a solid and important work.”
Forrest McDonald, Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus of History, University of Alabama

“ . . . well-written and full of fascinating details . . . an important resource . . . . One especially useful aspect of Halbrook’s work is that the author so consistently lets a huge variety of original sources speak for themselves.”
Nelson Lund, Patrick Henry Professor of Constitutional Law, George Mason University

“I enthusiastically recommend [it] . . . an original and valuable approach . . . . It will add appreciably to the scholarship on the origins and meaning of the Second Amendment.”
Joyce L. Malcolm, Professor of Legal History, George Mason University School of Law

". . . an impressive achievement. Halbrook shows conclusively to any honest mind, both in respect to historical evidence and analytical jurisprudence that the Framers intended the Second Amendment not as the reserved right of a State government to organize a militia, but of the people as individuals to keep and to bear arms . . . meticulously researched . . . the standard work for years to come on the original intent of the Second Amendment. It will be an invaluable resource for scholars of the Constitution.”
Donald W. Livingston, Professor of Philosophy, Emory University

“ . . . crisply written, rich with history, and sure to be valuable to anyone interested in understanding the original meaning of the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms.”
Glenn Harlan Reynolds, Beauchamp Brogan Distinguished Professor of Law, University of Tennessee

“Historian and philosopher Stephen Halbrook is the single most prolific researcher on the Second Amendment, having contributed literally dozens of scholarly articles on various aspects of the subject. The Founders’ Second Amendment . . . is the last word—the single most comprehensive work on the thinking of the Founding Fathers’ era about the constitutional right of citizens to be armed.”
Don B. Kates, Jr., author, Armed: New Perspectives on Gun Control

The Founders’ Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms
By Stephen P. Halbrook
Published by Ivan R. Dee
June 6, 2008 | Hardcover | 448 pages | $28.95 | ISBN 978-1-56663-792-3

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