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Guns across America

download (3)A misunderstanding of American history underlies much of the mindset — and too much of the rhetoric — of the NRA, the Tea Party, and their sympathizers.

It’s too bad that very few of these uber-patriots will hear of, much less read, a meticulously researched, absolutely persuasive book — Robert J. Spitzer’s Guns across America: Reconciling Gun Rules and Rights(Oxford, May 2015).

Spitzer traces the history of gun laws from colonial times to the present, showing unambiguously that the contemporary assertion of the historical basis for the individual’s “right to bear arms” is a baseless fantasy. In fact, as Spitzer points out, individual gun ownership was not formally judged to have any constitutional basis from the ratification of the Constitution through the end of the 20th century.

Using newly-available digital resources, Guns across America documents the range of gun restrictions following the colonial period. His survey shows that it’s not that constitutionally-guaranteed gun rights are now threatened by oppressive government regulation. Rather, political action by gun rights activists in the last few decades has rolled back gun restrictions that began in the 1780s.

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