Gunfight: The Battle Over The Right To Bear Arms In America Hardcover – Sep 6 2011
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“In , Adam Winkler tells the remarkable story of the rag-tag group of libertarian lawyers who challenged nearly a century of lower-court precedent to bring a clear-cut Second Amendment case to the Supreme Court. This is an engaging and provocative legal drama about the six-year courtroom journey of and a fascinating survey of the misunderstood history of guns and gun control in America.” — Wall Street Journal
About the Author
Adam Winkler, a professor of constitutional law at the University of California, Los Angeles, has been featured on CNN and in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the New Republic. A columnist for the Daily Beast, he lives in Los Angeles.
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The book also does Clayton a real disservice by completely ignoring his role in the Bellesiles episode.
From the first hand knowledge that I have about the Heller and McDonald cases, it is very clear that Adam also got much of that recent history wrong.
The book's discussion of my own work on concealed handguns is littered with inaccuracies, but one can see what Winkler does to Cramer research as a warning for how facts can be reversed in this book. In my case, at best Winkler didn't read the first edition of More Guns, Less Crime very carefully (he doesn't cite either the second and third editions) -- this is only a problem given that he is writing about the debate over my research.
I recently debated Adam on KPCC, a public radio station in Southern California. A copy of the interview as well as some of my comments on a few obviously incorrect claims by Adam are available on my website here [...]
Winkler starts with case of District of Columbia v. Heller as it is about to be announced by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008, and he then describes how the case was conceived, litigated, and finally decided. District of Columbia v. Heller is the case in which the Supreme Court held for the first time that the Second Amendment protects individual ownership of firearms and in which the District of Columbia's prohibition on private ownership of handguns was struck down as unconstitutional. As Winkler goes through the history of the case, he weaves in valuable historical context for the adoption of the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and early gun control measures, why they were adopted, and the development of the NRA's policy on the Second Amendment (its vociferousness is recent, dating to the late seventies).
The book is devoid of the aspersions on one faction or another that are so common in books on gun control. Winkler so fairly and accurately outlines the point of view of each faction in the debate over gun control that when he describes your point of view (whatever that may be) you can say "Yeah, he got that right!" and when he describes that of those you don't agree with, you can say it again.
Of course, if you get upset when a book doesn't come down squarely in favor of your position in the debate (and savage the other side for its obvious idiocy), save yourself some grief. For everyone else, if you have any interest at all in constitutional law or the gun control debate, you will find this book entertaining and worthwhile.
Really, Winkler walks on eggshells the whole book not to come down on one side or the other concerning this debate. It's pretty hard to contort the information in this book into a recommendation for gun control. To say that such an analysis screams of bias in an understatement.
P.S. This review was written by an owner of multiple firearms (of the extremely "tactical" variety).
I know all the arguments by heart, so I wasn't reading to learn the history. It may seem odd, but I wanted to know what Winkler, a defacto "Liberal" in my mind, due to his being a law professor at UCLA, had to say about this issue that fascinates me and polarizes society. Was he a closet gun lover? There are Liberal gun rights advocates - quite a few actually.
I enjoyed the storyline, which intersperses scenes from the Heller case in the Supreme Court with short history lessons. Most of the history seemed pretty accurate to me, although I did not take the time to do a Bellesiles check and look up his many footnoted references.
For much of the book it was hard to tell if the author was a liberal gun grabber or a conservative gun nut. He did a great job of skewering both the pro and anti-gun lobbies evenly. The one thing that tipped me off was a consistent thread in his attitude about gun laws.
Whenever he commented on a legislative stalemate or victory for the gun rights lobby, he seemed sad that no gun control laws were passed. If we could just work together, we could pass some nice new gun laws. He also frequently used terms like "reasonable gun safety laws" that are straight out of the gun grabber dictionary.
While Winkler briefly mentions the fact that current gun laws are ineffective, he does not seem at all bothered by it. He admits that guns aren't going to go away in America, but he seems certain that a magical law to render them safe is just around the corner if we will stop fighting and be reasonable.
Winkler seems oblivious to the complete and utter failure of gun control laws to provide any real, measurable, public benefit whenever they have been enacted.
This failure to make the logical connection is the biggest flaw in the book, but I would still recommend it to anyone who wants a fun and fast read on the history of the gun control debate in America.
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