In the aftermath of the Newtown Massacre we heard many people who invoked the names of our founders to support their position. I didn’t trust the historical knowledge of many of those voices so I decided to educate myself about the Second Amendment. I got that education, and then some, in this book.
Halbrook has written a well-researched book that clearly outlines how the right to bear arms became part of our Constitution. Using letters, newspaper accounts, diary entries, and publications of many of the participants, he places the Second Amendment in historical context. Pistols, muskets, and rifles had always been a significant part of colonial life. We see the importance Colonists placed on resisting tyranny with guns illustrated by events leading up to the American Revolution and through the ratification of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
The story begins in Boston just before the Revolution as General Gage, the Royal Governor of Massachusetts, is trying to disarm the colonists in Boston as well as confiscate gunpowder in an effort to quell potential rebellion. These actions only served to harden the resolve of the colonists and their various militias.
Next he covers adoption of the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution focusing on how those events shaped what became the Second Amendment. The book gets bogged down as he covers the debate over, and creation of, the Constitutions for each of the Colonies. Much of this is repetitive, but it is important to note that ownership of arms and participation in the militia were seen as essential by all of the colonies.
In discussing ratification of the Constitution, Halbrook focuses on the debate in each colony in regards to including the right to free speech and the press, the right against unlawful seizure, and the right to bear arms. Some colonies refused to ratify until a bill of rights was included in the Constitution. He ends the book discussing the debates in Congress about adopting the Bill of Rights. The strength of this book lies in the historical evidence Halbrook produces to show how important our Founders thought it was to protect the right to bear arms.
What it doesn’t cover are the implications of this amendment today and for our future.