Law Professor's New Book a Timely Look at the Legal History of Second Amendment

AP Photo/Brittainy Newman

From time to time, we hear about some new book that takes a look at the history of the Second Amendment and most of them seem to be more about advancing a narrative than actually looking at history.


For the record, that's exclusively an anti-gun narrative.

Then the author makes the talk show rounds, gets quoted in every article about gun control for the next six months, then disappears into obscurity because the work in question was a terrible piece of scholarship.

And that's me playing nice.

So when I found out another book was coming, I sort of cringed, until I saw who was interviewing the author.

Say what you want about the NRA and America's 1st Freedom, but they don't really give publicity to anti-gun books.

Robert J. Cottrol, a professor of law and history with George Washington University and the author of To Trust the People with Arms, concluded that a lot of Americans need to better understand the Second Amendment of the U.S. Bill of Rights. As teaching is what he does, he decided to put the Second Amendment’s legal story between the covers of a book. If this endeavor sounds legalistic or even lofty, perhaps that is a good thing, as an honestly researched and written case history of the right to keep and bear arms is certainly an operative way to expose the one-sided spin and deceits of the gun-control politics that has become the dogma of today’s mainstream media.

A1F: You wrote this book during a very interesting time, as you finished your book just after the NRA-backed Second Amendment case New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen (2022) was decided.
Cottrol: Yes, indeed. It’s rare for a historian to have a stop-the-presses moment. Basically, we had this with Bruen. We had written a book that basically takes us from the founding to Heller (2008) and McDonald (2010), but then we saw Bruen coming and we thought, My goodness, we can’t omit Bruen. This is incredible. They’re talking about the right to carry outside the home.


Of particular interest, at least to me, is how Cottrol became relatively pro-gun. He didn't grow up in a pro-gun household like most of us. Instead, he was raised in New York City.

It seems he saw The Diary of Anne Frank--the 1959 film, to be specific--and began to wonder what would have happened if Frank's father had been armed. Seeing the attic where the family hid just reinforced that idea. Couple that with, of all things, a discussion of the Second Amendment from the Boy Scout Handbook and poof.

Cottrol goes on to talk about some of the interesting facts of 2A history; facts that are no doubt included in his book. 

This is important because yes, the right to keep and bear arms is real, individual, and restricts states from infringing upon those rights. Cottrol seeks to lay down the case.

Somehow, though, I suspect he won't get the media attention that the gun control-favoring book The Second got, to say nothing of the countless other anti-Second Amendment books that have been published over the years.

Funny, that.

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