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Gunfight: The Battle Over The Right To Bear Arms In America Hardcover – Sep 6 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: WW Norton (Sept. 6 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393077411
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393077414
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 3 x 24.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 635 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,001,044 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


“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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on Oct. 19 2011
Format: Hardcover
Journalist and academic Adam Winkler has written a very clear and defining assessment of the very controversial and complicated gun-ownership issue in modern America. To accomplish this goal of making sense of the opposing arguments, he looks at some major political battle lines that continue to prevail throughout the history of this country between gun lobbyists and their anti-gun opponents, and they are not hard to find. Gun ownership over the years has become so deeply ingrained in the culture that the right to own one is seen to be a fundamental part of the constitution. It is here that Winkler focuses his attention in defining how both sides choose to interpret the 2nd Amendment as framed in the original document back in the 1780s. The country has always had a divided view as to how it should defend itself against tyrants, criminals, and foreign powers. Those who wish to see a total ban on the public use of firearms are up against some very fierce opposition from the National Rifle Association and other private groups set on preserving the right of all Americans to own and discharge a gun. Unfortunately, millions of guns are now being produced annually in the US that fall into the hands of criminal organizations which are engaged in their own war to control local neighborhoods. Over time, big government has passed legislation such as the Brady Bill in 1993 to clamp down on the sale and ownership of handguns in order to stop violence in the streets. While the laws may be getting tougher as to who can own a gun, they are not addressing the real heart of the matter: how to repeal the ambiguous 2nd Amendment that allows for various conflicting views to muddy the water. To make this point, Winkler takes his readers through the very fascinating legal case of the District of Columbia v. Heller.Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 66 reviews
224 of 291 people found the following review helpful
Not a very accurate book, very disappointing Oct. 24 2011
By John R. Lott Jr. - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The most disturbing thing about this book is how Winkler distorts what others have written. Take this example. Clayton Cramer has written extensively on the history of concealed handgun laws. Winkler claims that Cramer didn't believe that concealed handgun laws were motivated by racism, but, according to Clayton, the laws in the late 1800s were in fact clearly motivated by racism. When I read this discussion I called up Clayton just to make sure that I hadn't completely gotten things backwards in my mind and he assured me that I hadn't. Clayton also rejected the notion that the concealed handgun laws adopted then were done as a way of "reducing public violence" as Winkler writes. It is hard to read Clayton's work and get these things so backwards. You can disagree with Clayton and explain those disagreements, but don't claim that he wrote the opposite of what he actually wrote. I hope that I am wrong, but this discussion comes across as an attempt to separate gun control from its racist past in the South.
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 [...]
57 of 75 people found the following review helpful
The winner in Gunfight is the reader Jan. 15 2012
By Richard Gary - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is a highly informative account, and expert analysis, of the tension between the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States (the right to keep and bear arms) and gun control. Adam Winkler, the author, is a constitutional law professor who is able to explain important legal principles in a way that makes them easy for the non-expert to understand. More important, however, he knows how to engage the reader and make a book about a policy debate fascinating.

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.
30 of 43 people found the following review helpful
Great read Jan. 2 2013
By Patrick - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you've been looking for an analysis on gun control in America from an all-too-rare neutral viewpoint then Gun Control hits the spot. I'll leave it to the others to go more in depth concerning the details; however, I'd like to point something out concerning the those who wrote negative reviews. Most are clearly from the anti-gun control side who consider this book to the pro-gun control. I find it difficult to come to that conclusion. The whole point of the book (made time and time again) is to demonstrate that for as long as people have had guns there has been gun control laws proposed and/or in effect. Whether these laws were rational or effective isn't the, really, the point. Instead, it is to give some idea of the history and logic used to form those laws. If you consider this information to be an endorsement of gun control laws, well, I can't help you there.

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).
72 of 106 people found the following review helpful
Interesting point of view written very well Sept. 11 2011
By Mike in PDX - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've been a serious student of the gun control debate for over thirty years so I was anxious to read Adam Winkler's "Gun Fight."

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.
The Straight Shooter Oct. 8 2015
By Franklin the Mouse - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In Mr. Winkler's introduction, you get a clear understanding where the book is heading when he writes, "... the right to bear arms and gun control are not mutually exclusive propositions." Hallelujah! Someone who actual sounds reasonable when it comes to the topic of gun ownership and gun control. All the doom-and-gloom nonsense spouted out by the National Rifle Association (NRA) as well as groups demanding a gun-free country are not where sane individuals reside. As Mr. Winkler clearly shows, guns AND gun restrictions are not only here to stay but it's always been that way. Forty-three out of fifty state constitutions clearly and unambiguously protect the right of individuals to own guns. Even without the 2nd Amendment, gun rights aren't going away, people. So just relax. All the arguing by outliers makes for great ratings in the press, but the polarization destroys any chance of reasonable discussions or effectively addressing the public's concerns.

Mr. Winkler's work focuses on the Supreme Court 2008 case of District of Columbia v. Heller. He explains the key players as well as the political maneuvering by concerned interests. Interjected throughout the evolution of the case, the author explains salient people and events who helped shape our gun laws. Mr. Winkler covers such topics as the myth of a lawless Wild West, racism's effect on gun laws, the importance of the Solicitor General, the Black Panthers tactics with firearms, and the 1970s' coup which transformed the NRA from a well-respected association founded in 1871 into the demagogues epitomized in their current leader/troll Wayne LaPierre.

Even learned scholars, judges and lawyers of today strongly disagree about the framers' intent of the 2nd Amendment. Mr. Winkler has written a levelheaded book that did me a world of good to know that my attitude about the issue is very much the majority view in the U.S. 'Gunfight' is an easy-to-read, engrossing work that helped me chill out about all the angry blathering around the topic.