The Militia and the Right to Arms, or, How the Second Amendment Fell Silent - Constitutional Conflicts (Paperback)H. Richard Uviller (author), William G. Merkel (author)
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-Amendment II, United States Constitution
The Second Amendment is regularly invoked by opponents of gun control, but H. Richard Uviller and William G. Merkel argue the amendment has nothing to contribute to debates over private access to firearms. In The Militia and the Right to Arms, or, How the Second Amendment Fell Silent, Uviller and Merkel show how postratification history has sapped the Second Amendment of its meaning. Starting with a detailed examination of the political principles of the founders, the authors build the case that the amendment's second clause (declaring the right to bear arms) depends entirely on the premise set out in the amendment's first clause (stating that a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state). The authors demonstrate that the militia envisioned by the framers of the Bill of Rights in 1789 has long since disappeared from the American scene, leaving no lineal descendants. The constitutional right to bear arms, Uviller and Merkel conclude, has evaporated along with the universal militia of the eighteenth century.
Using records from the founding era, Uviller and Merkel explain that the Second Amendment was motivated by a deep fear of standing armies. To guard against the debilitating effects of militarism, and against the ultimate danger of a would-be Caesar at the head of a great professional army, the founders sought to guarantee the existence of well-trained, self-armed, locally commanded citizen militia, in which service was compulsory. By its very existence, this militia would obviate the need for a large and dangerous regular army. But as Uviller and Merkel describe the gradual rise of the United States Army and the National Guard over the last two hundred years, they highlight the nation's abandonment of the militia ideal so dear to the framers. The authors discuss issues of constitutional interpretation in light of radically changed social circumstances and contrast their position with the arguments of a diverse group of constitutional scholars including Sanford Levinson, Carl Bogus, William Van Alstyne, and Akhil Reed Amar.
Espousing a centrist position in the polarized arena of Second Amendment interpretation, this book will appeal to those wanting to know more about the amendment's relevance to the issue of gun control, as well as to those interested in the constitutional and political context of America's military history.
Publisher: Duke University Press
Number of pages: 352
Weight: 558 g
Dimensions: 232 x 149 x 23 mm
"H. Richard Uviller and William G. Merkel have written an outstanding book. One need not agree with every one of their arguments in order to recognize this as a major contribution to the debate about the intellectual origins of the Second Amendment. Anyone interested in the topic-including the potential implications of the Amendment for contemporary gun control policy-should read this book."-Sanford Levinson, University of Texas School of Law
"Uviller and Merkel offer a very valuable legal history of the militia and its relationship to the standing army. That history is the heart of this book, as their reading of the Second Amendment grows directly out of it. I have read accounts of these events dozens of times, but this one may be the best of all. It covers an enormous amount of ground in an astonishingly short space, in glorious prose, with a narrative flow that pulls the whole story together and sweeps the reader along."-David C. Williams, Indiana University School of Law
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