British Historian Claims Founders Would Be Opposed to 2A Movement

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With a title like "One Nation Under Guns: How Gun Culture Distorts Our History and Threatens Our Democracy", historian Dominic Erdozain has understandably been getting a lot of press in liberal circles for his new book. How can the anti-gun media resist a hook like that, especially when Erdozain claims to have discovered that, far from the protectors of an individual right to keep and bear arms, the Founders would have been staunchly opposed to the modern day movement to protect and secure our Second Amendment rights? 


Erdozain's currently traveling around the country promoting his twisted history, and was warmly greeted by the Ivy Leagures at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island on Wednesday night, where a few dozen gun control fans eagerly lapped up his assertion that "the founders, the very people who are invoked in support of gun rights, furnish a far more robust and coherent account of liberty than this kind of muscular freedom to go armed as and when you choose.” 

He stated that the country’s founders would be “heavily critical of the reckless individualism that is attached to gun rights at the moment.”

A key argument of Erdozain’s book is that the founders of the country believed “the liberal state is there to protect us not only from tyrannical rules, but from the tyranny in all of us.”

Erdozain challenged the notion that the Second Amendment was written to guarantee that all individuals have a right to bear arms, instead characterizing it as an anti-war measure that prevents a “professional army that allows rulers to rule as dictators.”

And yet, if the militia, which was defined as the body of the people capable of bearing arms, was going to be able to prevent that dictatorial rule, then those individual militia members needed to be able to keep and bear arms. 

While there most certainly was (and is) an aspect of the Second Amendment that revolves around citizen gun ownership as a check on tyranny, that doesn't mean it's the sole reason why it is exists. In truth, the natural right to individual self-defense wasn't all that controversial at the time of the Founding, and while Erdozain might point to an absence of speeches or writings in favor of that right, he also can't point to any nascent gun control lobby that was arguing no right to armed self-defense existed. 


Erdozain has claimed that the "jurisprudence of individual gun rights first developed in the slaveholding South," though it's more accurate to say that's where the racist roots of gun control can be found. The 1776 Pennsylvania Constitution and the Vermont Constitution of 1777 both explicitly protected the right to keep and bear arms for individual self-defense, and they were also some of the earliest legislative expressions of opposition to slavery in the United States, but somehow I doubt Erdozain brought that up to his Ivy League audience on Wednesday. 

Erdozain is literally trying to rewrite history in order to "reframe" the gun control debate, but he can't create a historical record of gun control laws that don't exist. Where were the widespread prohibitions on privately possessed arms at the time the Second Amendment was ratified? Even with Shays Rebellion and the Whiskey Rebellion, neither Congress nor states attempted to ban possession of firearms, be they old-fashioned muskets or cutting-edge Pennsylvania and Kentucky rifles. 

The same is true when multi-shot firearms were developed, when lever-action rifles were introduced, and when semi-automatic firearms became commonplace more than a century ago. You may have had some laws or ordinances regulating the time, manner, and place where those arms could be carried, but Erdozain can't point to any national tradition of prohibiting the possession or carrying of any arm at any time.


I wouldn't agree with him any more than I do now, but Erdozain would have been better off making the progressive argument that we've "outgrown" the Second Amendment instead of insisting that it was never about individual gun ownership to begin with. I suspect, however, that Erdozain knows trying to repeal the Second Amendment is a fool's errand, and that it is simply easier to fool readers into believing it's no impediment to the kind of restrictions he'd like the government to ram down our throats. 

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