[Carol] Anderson’s [book, The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America], however, is wanting in important respects. She argues unconvincingly, in the face of formidable scholarship to the contrary, that the aim to protect slavery was the predominant motive behind the Second Amendment. She writes that the Second Amendment was “the result of [James] Madison’s determination to salve Patrick Henry’s obsession about Virginia’s vulnerability to slave revolts, seduce enough anti-Federalists to get the Constitution ratified and stifle the demonstrated willingness of the South to scuttle the United States if slavery were not protected.”
The Second Amendment, she claims, “came into being … steeped in anti-Blackness, swaddled in the desire to keep African-descended people rightless and powerless, and as yet another bone tossed to keep the South mollified and willing to stay aligned with the grand experiment of the United States of America.”
Because the centrality of racism to American history has often been obscured, revisions adding racial realism are urgently needed. Racism, however, for all its importance, is not the only major influence in the country’s affairs.
Akhil Reed Amar’s careful explanation of the debate over the Second Amendment in “The Bill of Rights: Creation and Reconstruction” (1998) points to considerations that Anderson notably slights, particularly “deep anxiety about a potentially abusive federal military.”
Anderson does not ignore altogether such concerns. She alludes to “the anti-Federalists’ heightened fear of a strong central government” as a factor in their calculations. But in her telling, dread of Blacks was the essential, overriding cause of the Second Amendment, an entitlement “rooted in fear of Black people, to deny them their rights, to keep them from tasting liberty.” Such claims significantly overstate the role of race in the amendment’s development.
— Randall Kennedy in Was the Constitutional Right to Bear Arms Designed to Protect Slavery?