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How We Got Here: Second Amendment Edition

The New Yorker has a really interesting blog post about how the 2nd amendment came to mean what many now believe it to mean. Turns out we didn’t always see things the way we do:

Enter the modern National Rifle Association. Before the nineteen-seventies, the N.R.A. had been devoted mostly to non-political issues, like gun safety. But a coup d’état at the group’s annual convention in 1977 brought a group of committed political conservatives to power—as part of the leading edge of the new, more rightward-leaning Republican Party. (Jill Lepore recounted this history in a recent piece for The New Yorker.) The new group pushed for a novel interpretation of the Second Amendment, one that gave individuals, not just militias, the right to bear arms. It was an uphill struggle. At first, their views were widely scorned. Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, who was no liberal, mocked the individual-rights theory of the amendment as “a fraud.”

The article goes on to explain how interesting it is that this represents a “living” constitution that adapts with the times, something conservatives generally fight against:

But the N.R.A. kept pushing—and there’s a lesson here. Conservatives often embrace “originalism,” the idea that the meaning of the Constitution was fixed when it was ratified, in 1787. They mock the so-called liberal idea of a “living” constitution, whose meaning changes with the values of the country at large. But there is no better example of the living Constitution than the conservative re-casting of the Second Amendment in the last few decades of the twentieth century. (Reva Siegel, of Yale Law School, elaborates on this point in a brilliant article.)

December 28, 2012 // This post is about: , , , , , ,

Comments

  • Lewis Wright says:

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and had several interesting discussions surrounding the 2nd amendment, the timeliness of gun control and the affect any of this might have on shootings similar to Newtown. The thoughts you share and articles you distribute are relevant and thought provoking. I usually just read in silence but felt compelled to say thanks this morning!

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