Joyce Malcolm illuminates the historical facts underlying the current passionate debate about gun-related violence, the Brady Bill, and the NRA, revealing the original meaning and intentions behind the individual right to “bear arms.” Few on either side of the Atlantic realize that this extraordinary, controversial, and least understood liberty was a direct legacy of English law. This book explains how the Englishmen’s hazardous duty evolved into a right, and how it was transferred to America and transformed into the Second Amendment.
Malcolm’s story begins in turbulent seventeenth-century England. She shows why English subjects, led by the governing classes, decided that such a dangerous public freedom as bearing arms was necessary. Entangled in the narrative are shifting notions of the connections between individual ownership of weapons and limited government, private weapons and social status, the citizen army and the professional army, and obedience and resistance, as well as ideas about civilian control of the sword and self-defense. The results add to our knowledge of English life, politics, and constitutional development, and present a historical analysis of a controversial Anglo-American legacy, a legacy that resonates loudly in America today.
Joyce Malcolm's book reminds us forcibly that arguments for gun ownership were, until quite recently, respectable and persuasive, and that gun control and peaceable behaviour appear to be unrelated phenomena.
A groundbreaking book on the history of gun rights.
A work of genuine excellence, as persuasive in its argument as it is unsettling in its implications...Malcolm's prose is both vigorous and elegant, and occasionally even witty, a virtue rarely to be found in a constitutional treatise. The book should generate a healthy debate about the future of gun control in America.
A wide audience, including social scientists, historians, lawyers, and anyone interested in the gun-ownership debate, should welcome this concise, well-written history.
[Malcolm] provides a skillful analysis of how the Englishmen's duty to bear arms was transformed into a right to bear arms.
- 254 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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