After deconstructing the The Secret History of Guns Atlantic article penned by left-leaning legal eagle Adam Winkler [not shown], I Tweeted the Brady Campaign campaigner for a response. Adam sent me an email [full text after the jump]. Deconstructing that communication, it’s clear Mr. Winkler read nothing of what I wrote. The form letter defends his gun grabbing gobbledegook as fair and balanced: equally harsh to gun control and gun rights groups. What it doesn’t say is where Winkler stands on the issues. In fact, Winkler promotes his new book with a simple thought: never mind the issues, read the history! More simply, buy my book! Shameless self-promotion and moral prevarication. I guess I got what I paid for. (Hint: I paid nothing.) Note to Adam: no matter where you stand on gun rights, appeasement is so Neville Chamberlain. Or, as we used to say, gag me with a spoon . . .
Professor of Law
UCLA School of Law
Look for my book Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America
(W. W. Norton September 2011)
One of the major book reviewers called Gunfight “detailed, balanced and engrossing—sure to displease both sides of the gun-control debate,” and the reaction to the excerpts of the book in the Atlantic proves the point. I’ve received angry emails from people in the gun control community (like the Brady people I spoke to in that video) upset that I strongly endorse the view that individuals have a right to keep and bear arms for self-defense. They’re disappointed that my book highlights the racist roots of gun control; how the Ku Klux Klan began as a gun control organization; and how the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment set out to protect the freedmen’s right to own guns. They are angry that I criticize so-called assault weapons bans, which are foolish and ineffective, and tell them to get over their disarmament fantasies because the 280 million guns are here to stay. And some friends in the pro-gun community (like the NRA people I’ve spoken to at NRA-hosted events) have written objecting to my discussion of the long history of gun control, from the Founding Fathers and the concealed carry bans of the early 1800s through the Wild West and up to today. They don’t like that I discuss the long history of courts upholding gun control laws, of how the NRA used to promote gun control laws that it now seeks to repeal.
But I didn’t write Gunfight to please either side in the gun debate. I wrote it to share the remarkable stories I discovered about guns and our centuries-long effort to balance gun rights with public safety. Chief among them was the story of the Heller case. I spent a lot of time with Alan Gura, who grew up in the same neighborhood and went to my high school, learning the inside history of the lawsuit; of his battles with the NRA and the Bush Administration; of his emotions and thoughts when he arguing Heller– his very first case before the Supreme Court, with the weight of the gun community on his shoulders. His landmark, historic victory provides the backbone of Gunfight.
Perhaps you and some of your readers disagree with specific points made in the Atlantic piece. In my view, the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right. It’s not inaccurate for me to point out as a descriptive matter that it’s been sufficiently ambiguous to support very different interpretations. Some people view all gun regulation as illegitimate; it’s not inaccurate for me to observe that we’ve had gun laws coexisting with the right to bear arm for over two hundred years in America. You can call that “flexibility,” but I see it as normalizing the Second Amendment. No right in American law is absolute, not speech, not privacy, not religious liberty, not the right to keep and bear arms.
On a radio show recently, David Kopel, the leading gun rights scholar in the county, said, “I urge people to buy Adam’s book because it is one of the few genuinely moderate books ever written on the topic.” Eugene Volokh, one of the intellectual leaders of the gun rights world, calls the book “An informative, eminently fair-minded, and extremely readable book, which readers of all political stripes should find interesting.” Sandy Levinson, one of the most influential scholars of the Second Amendment, says, “Adam Winkler has written the best book currently available on the complex history of guns in America. His remarkably accessible and vividly written history will inform both general readers and specialists alike.” Will your readers find something to disagree with in my book? I bet they will. And they’ll also find things they agree with, supported by fresh arguments. My hope is that they enjoy reading it and find much in it to discuss, debate, and talk about with their friends.