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Hardcover A Well-Regulated Militia: The Founding Fathers and the Origins of Gun Control in America Book

ISBN: 0195147863

ISBN13: 9780195147865

A Well-Regulated Militia: The Founding Fathers and the Origins of Gun Control in America

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Book Overview

Americans are deeply divided over the Second Amendment. Some passionately assert that the Amendment protects an individual's right to own guns. Others, that it does no more than protect the right of states to maintain militias. Now, in the first and only comprehensive history of this bitter controversy, Saul Cornell proves conclusively that both sides are wrong.
Cornell, a leading constitutional historian, shows that the Founders understood the...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

A Wonderful Book

One of Cornell's most important points is that service in a state militia at the time of the Founding Fathers WAS a highly regulated enterprise. It was a duty as much as a right - you were required to muster, train, drill; the units were led by an organized officer core; state officials knew who was a member and therefore who owned private firearms; and there were penalties for noncompliance for the select group of individuals who participated (usually white, property-owning males between the ages of 18 and 45). This type of regulation and oversight would be anathema to the NRA today. They still want to hoodwink us into believing that the Second Amendment gives private citizens the right to run around with their guns and take action when they believe a "tyranny" has risen in Washington.'s the same mentality taken that was to its logical conclusion by our own most infamous homegrown terrorist, Timothy McVeigh. Cornell's book makes a farce of such claims, and shows that the NRA would never seek a return to the true concept of the Second Amendment as laid out by the Founders.

Keep Your Powder Dry

The second amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads, "A well regulated militia, being necessary to security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." A straight forward enough statement that this book shows has been interpreted in ways that are far from what its original drafters intended. When the amendment was written, the drafters distinguished between the concept of common defense and the concept of self-defense, as established in English Common Law. The amendment was originally written to prevent the newly created federal government from disarming the state militias that were considered the first line of defense against foreign invasions, civil disorder, and usurpation of power by the federal government. At the time, "well regulated militia" meant organized citizen soldiers trained and equipped to provide a common defense. The rights to self-defense and the weapons necessary to that type of defense were left to the discretion of the states. As this book explains with admirable clarity, and using actual case studies, this distinction between common and self-defense has gradually been lost as the U.S. itself has changed over the last two hundred years. Anyone wishing a real understanding of the second amendment and the many unresolved conflicts that it has generated would do well to read this book.

Well-balanced and insightful

You would think that before writing a review of a book, "reviewers" would take the time to read it. (See comments by 'A guy in PA') Cornell notes that he obtained funding from Joyce ... and further thanks the NRA and Brady -- should we not read it cause he therefore must be a shill for the gun lobby? What impresses me that Cornell seems to have sought the input of everyone who counts in this debate. The result is a thoughtful work of history that challenges some of the mistakes both sides have made. For me, it was an eye-opener to see what the real intended meaning of the 2nd amendment was. I suggest you read this book and judge for yourself -- something some reviewers seem not have bothered to do!

What the Second Amendment REALLY Means!

Someone finally gets it! The Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights has long been the root of great controversy and debate. One side declares the intent to be that of insuring a well regulated militia with no regard for individual rights. It seems this school of thought would have us believe that "the people" referred to by the framers are not the same as "the people" regarded in several other of the Amendments. The other side stands firm that the Second Amendment squarely and firmly guarantees the right of individuals to arm themselves. For decades now, the problem has been that, to a degree, both sides are wrong. The Second Amendment, thanks to Patrick Henry and many other anti-federalists, makes the right to bear arms a "civic right" or duty. The anti-federalists rightly feared the liberal rights guaranteed government by the Constitution and sought to protect the citizenry by giving citizens a civic obligation to arm themselves. A WELL REGULATED MILITIA: THE FOUNDING FATHER'S AND THE ORIGIN OF GUN CONTROL IN AMERICA by Saul Cornell, has finally brought the facts to light. Though they were not victorious, we should give thanks daily for the tremendous influence the anti-federalists had. Their foresight has come to fruition in America. They envisioned the Constitution as giving too much authority to the various branches of government and taking too much away from the individual states. They feared an overpowering judiciary, which quickly came to exist when the Marshall Court far overstepped its' authority in Marbury v. Madison. The states received their biggest blow from a runaway federal government at the conclusion of the Civil War with the advent of the Fourteenth Amendment. These abuses of power are precisely the reason why the Second Amendment exists, though today it is all but nullified. Cornell's brilliant work here not only restores the Second Amendment to its original meaning, but explains in detail how we arrived at such a convoluted position on guns as we find ourselves today. Sadly, however, Cornell's book amounts to too little too late, as both sides have become powerful forces giving millions of campaign dollars to a corrupt government that isn't about to relinquish the power it has wrestled away from its citizenry. Nonetheless, Cornell's work is brilliant, if not long overdue, and should be read by all Americans interested in Gun rights issues, and more importantly, state's rights issues. Monty Rainey

Advance Praise for A Well-Regulated Militia

"If proof were still needed that the study of the Second Amendment remains a fruitful source of inquiry, Saul Cornell's new book provides it. Crisply written and vigorously argued, A Well-Regulated Militia advances an often hackneyed debate by looking beyond the original concerns of the Revolutionary era. Cornell concisely demonstrates why so many of the contemporary fictions swirling around the meaning of this vexed clause depart from its real history." -- Jack Rakove, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Original Meanings "Saul Cornell provides a wonderful, original treatment of a much discussed subject. Based on a meticulous review of American history, Cornell shows that both sides of the debate over the Second Amendment are mistaken. This is a must-read." -- Erwin Chemerinsky, Duke University School of Law "Jettisoning the rancorous partisanship and historical distortions of both advocates and opponents of gun control, Cornell recovers the lost civic dimension of the constitutional right to bear arms. The point of departure for any future, historically-informed discussion of this most controversial amendment, A Well-Regulated Militia clears the way for fresh and constructive thinking about the rights and responsibilities of gun ownership in America today." -- Peter S. Onuf, author of Jefferson's Empire: The Language of American Nationhood "With this book Saul Cornell establishes himself as a leading interpreter of the Second Amendment, and teaches us valuable lessons not only about gun control and the militia, but about the nature of American republican government itself." -- Stephen Presser, Northwestern University School of Law "A provocative alternative in the debate over the historical meaning of the Second Amendment. Anyone interested in how the right to bear arms was thought about in the early republic will need to take this book into account." -- Keith E. Whittington, author of Constitutional Interpretation
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