The History of Gun Rights

Stephen Henderson meets with Gregory Sumner, Professor of History at University of Detroit Mercy, to discuss the history of our second amendment and our interpretations of it:

  • A living document: Sumner says the framers of the Constitution wrote it in a way that was brief, succinct, and purposefully vague. He says they meant for it to evolve over time and believes they thought of the Constitution as a “living document.”
  • Fear of anarchy: According to Sumner, the phrase “well regulated militia” is reflective of the framers’ reaction to a fear not only of tyranny, but also of anarchy, rebellion, and mob violence. He says interpretations of the second amendment should take this intense atmosphere of concern over controlling violent rebellions into account.
  • No absolutes: Sumner says gun control is not a black and white issue. He says the Constitution is written as a series of compromises, obligations, and reasonable limitations. He says there is no absolute individual right to own a gun and says interpretations of gun control are a balancing act.
  • Changing views: Stephen and Sumner discuss the ways the Supreme Court and American gun culture has changed over the last fifty years with regard to interpretations of the second amendment. Sumner says the Supreme Court plays “political football” over this issue, with Republican’s tending to vote for broader interpretations while Democrats usually support more regulatory views of gun control.

Click the audio link above to hear the full conversations.

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