In the New Yorker, Jill Lepore writes about the history of guns, the NRA and how the interpretation of the Second Amendment has changed over the course of American history. The National Rifle Association was founded in 1871 and spent most of its history focused on hunting and sport. It didn’t get political and begin its aggressive opposition to gun-control legislation until the 1970′s. The idea that an individual citizen has a Second Amendment right to keep and own a gun for self-protection or protection of property is a new phenomena that’s been pushed by the NRA. Lepore cites former Chief Justice Warren Berger saying that this interpretation of the Second Amendment is “one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word ‘fraud,’ on the American public by special-interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”
But Lepore’s most compelling passage is about the state of the gun debate in the face recent school shootings and the Trayvon Martin killing.
One in three Americans knows someone who has been shot. As long as a candid discussion of guns is impossible, unfettered debate about the causes of violence is unimaginable. Gun-control advocates say the answer to gun violence is fewer guns. Gun-rights advocates say that the answer is more guns: things would have gone better, they suggest, if the faculty at Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Chardon High School had been armed. That is the logic of the concealed-carry movement; that is how armed citizens have come to be patrolling the streets. That is not how civilians live. When carrying a concealed weapon for self-defense is understood not as a failure of civil society, to be mourned, but as an act of citizenship, to be vaunted, there is little civilian life left.
Read her entire piece here.
See also: “Why Are Guns So Important?”