Previous Post
Next Post

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 . . .

Adam Winkler
Professor of Law
UCLA School of Law
twitter: @adamwinkler
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.

Previous Post
Next Post


  1. RF, if I were Adam Winkler I wouldn’t answer you at all. No offense but you are being an obnoxious jerk toward him. He doesn’t owe you a thing. You’ve already misrepresented both him and his positions. You owe him an apology just for starters.

    • I don’t recall seeing your analysis of my analysis wherein you identified a misrepresentation of Mr. Winkler’s position. In other words, you’re name calling.

      As I know you are a busy man, and I appreciate the time you spend here for our collective illumination, how about a bullet point run down on where I got it wrong?

      I’d like to debate these issues. If you can take Mr. Winkler’s part, I’m sure we’d all learn from the resulting interchange.

      • I’m sure ol’ Mr. Quincy Magoo will be right along with your bullet points Robert. Serious debate is soooo tedious and he is such a very busy man afterall. He strikes me as more of the shoot and scoot type. Has he ever backed up any of his remarks or castigations with anything more than opinion, conjecture, vitriol or finger wagging?

      • Where did you misrepresent Winkler, you ask? Read your title.

        RF, I have no desire to debate you here, where you are both debater and moderator. I’d get the same treatment Winkler got, the same treatment I already get. It wouldn’t accomplish a thing. No, thanks. I’m satisfied to get in the occasional word edgewise.

        • Magoo, this is a description of the treatment you get:

          – Your posts are allowed to stand unedited, even when they contain personal insults and ad hominem fallacies (a privilige I can assure you, from personal experience, the rest of us do not enjoy).

          -Your posts are read

          -Your points are addressed, usually by people who “show their work” and provide the data on which they base their conclusions

          -On the exceedingly rare occasions where you are able to point out a factual error it’s acknowledged that you’ve done so.

          So you can drop the “woe is me, the gun loons just won’t listen” crap. You have never, in all the time I’ve been reading here, even attempted to engage in a reasonable debate. Saying you don’t want to debate because it won’t do any good is, frankly, like me saying I won’t play one-on-one with LeBron because I have nothing to prove.

        • TTAG is an open forum, where the right to make your case in inviolate. Except for flaming. No flaming. (Except for the FPSRussia posts. Their flames rock!) My only job as a moderator is to enforce that sanction without fear or favor. And that I do to the best of my ability.

          As for the headline, I believe I backed up my assertions with facts and logic. And will do so again, should you decide to put your metaphorical money where your proverbial mouth is. Whatever is is.

          • Given a post you deleted because I commented on the editorial content of a gun review, you sir, are a hypocrite.

        • Robert strikes me as fair minded and wholly ethical man. Why don’t you two have an exchange on the subject at hand that is off line, mano y mano, so that the peanut gallery can’t chime in and hijack the train of thought. When you two have had enough, RF can then publish it here unedited, but only with your approval, and with comments closed? That might well be a debate that I’d like to read if the two of you are up to it.

          • If that’s what it takes, I’m on like Donkey Kong. Although I liked Galaxians a lot more and I’m not quite sure what that means.

            • Robert, I knew that you’d be up to the task. Our little friend though? So far it’s just the sound of crickets chirping in the lonely night of cyberspace.

              • Well, it’s been a good six hours since the proposal was posted to RF and Magoo. Alas, it appears that ol’ Magoo ain’t got game, not that I really expected it of course. What’s that line from Macbeth about being full of sound and fury, signifying nothing?

              • First, you are trolling. Next, I don’t owe you or anyone a debate. You don’t even have a topic.

              • Magoo, how did you manage to not have a reply button to your latest post? RF, have you been messing around?

                First, er, ah, second, I’m trolling? Nya, nya,: I’m rubber, you’re glue, what bounces off of me sticks to you. (Sorry, Rf, my feeble attempt at raising the level of dialog to the higher plain that’s expected of the Armed Intelligencia here at TTAG is, I know, a bit wonting). Magoo, dude, WTF, seriously? I’m a troll? Why the unmitigated gall! How dare you, you slanderous naive!? You’ve thrown the gauntlet and now there is no other choice but pistols at 20 paces, at sunrise. RF will be my second, I trust Mikey will be yours? It’s settled then, be prepared to meet your maker and bring your best sir.

                Magoo, you’re absolutely right, you don’t owe me or anyone else here at TTAG a debate, or anything else for that matter. In fact, no one in the world owes me anything, in case you were wondering; I pay my own way in the world, I take my own chances and I am personally accountable for absolutely everything that I do, no excuses. That said, what I was getting at, if you missed the subtlety, is that you come in here, lob a few Molotov’s over the wall and then scoot, never (or perhaps rarely) backing up your assertions with, you know, actual facts and data. You slag RF, to wit, “RF, if I were Adam Winkler I wouldn’t answer you at all. No offense but you are being an obnoxious jerk toward him. He doesn’t owe you a thing. You’ve already misrepresented both him and his positions. You owe him an apology just for starters.” So, by saying “No offense but you are being an obnoxious jerk toward him.”, that’s your way of debate and bringing cogent argument to the fore? Passive/aggressive much? No offense? Really? Come on, who are you kidding? RF nailed Mr. Winkler, what with AW’s canned response and his schilling of his book. AW’s book may be spot on, and the accolades of Dave Kopel, Sandy Levinson and Eugene Volokh, men whom I have deep respect for, certainly give credence to the books value (though I’ll wait until it becomes available at my local library before I pick it up to read, as I don’t think that I’d personally like to line Mr. Winkler’s pockets). Is that all that you’ve got? That’s pretty thin gruel, dude. Don’t you agree?

                When you assert that, “You don’t even have a topic.”; is it not clear to you what the topic at hand is? Sheesh!! Now let’s go very slowly, shall we, so that you can keep up; explain to us how RF has misrepresented AW’s position or AW’s convictions/assertions, and defend that AW isn’t your run of the mill, elitist, guns for me and my kind, but not for you simpleton proles in fly-over country. Get it?

                Magoo, I really don’t give a care one way or another if you rise to the challenge and debate RF on one topic or another. I won’t wait with baited breath for your next pontification. From my perspective, you’re merely a mascot/foil, a gadfly in the ointment, a misplaced point of reference, to the larger conversation here at TTAG. You puzzle me and you amuse me. Keep up the good work, will you? I’d be so delighted if you would.

    • +1

      Don’t criticize a history book just because you don’t like the history. Otherwise you’re on the same side as Pol Pot.

    • Holy crap! Magold criticising RF for being obnoxious? That’s like Mettallica criticizing a string quartet for being loud.

  2. RF-
    It is unclear to me from the article whether Winkler’s holds himself out as a historian or a legal scholar.

    I am not qualified to judge quality of his work in the article as it relates to history. As to his legal analysis, I am unimpressed. His analysis of Scalia (“Justice Scalia, in other words, embraced a living Constitution”) suggests Winkler is not much of a Constitutional scholar, or at best a tabloid provocateur.

    No right is absolute, whether articulated in the Bill of Rights or otherwise–they can all be restricted subject to different levels of scrutiny depending upon the nature of the right. To imply that Scalia is some kind of hypocrite for acknowledging the Second Amendment is not absolute is intellectually dishonest, bordering on sophomoric. I suppose the NRA is hypocritical if it wouldn’t support a private citizen’s right to own a nuclear ICBM? Come on. In fact, the majority in Heller acknowledge that future courts will have to resolve the contours of an individual’s right under the 2nd Amendment. But to compare Heller to say, Roe v. Wade or Grutter v. Bollinger is just silly when one is bandying about the phrase “living Constitution,” and makes it hard to take the author’s analysis seriously.

    I have not read Winkler’s book, nor will I unless someone gives me a free copy. So I don’t have enough information to really say whether the guy has the intellectual chops to fully digest Heller or not. But based on his tabloid-style analysis in the article, I’m guessing not.

    I agree with your original “deconstruction” with respect to his red-herring arguments. Just because the founding fathers (or the NRA) had a few one-off, anomalous pro-gun-control policy views did not make those policies correct or significant enough to counteract their overwhelming quanta of policy views in favor of private arms. It’s as intellectually dishonest as those on the far-left who now label Obama a “conservative” for the one or two things Obama has done that conservatives like, blind to the mountain of displeasure he’s caused them.

    I suspect you are correct as to the real motive$ behind his book.

  3. Have you ever thought about publishing an ebook or guest authoring on other websites?
    I have a blog centered on the same information you discuss and would
    really like to have you share some stories/information. I know my readers would enjoy your work.

    If you’re even remotely interested, feel free to send me an email.

Comments are closed.