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Gunfight by Adam Winkler

We are honored to include the book review below by one of our favorite colleagues, Professor Dave Fagundes.

"Adam Winkler's Gunfight is a radically moderate history of Districtof Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court case that adopted the view that the Second Amendment confers an individual right to bear arms. This is a masterful recounting of the story of a landmark constitutional case. And best of all, there is something in this book to disappoint all sides in the overheated public debate about guns in America.

Gun control advocates will be disappointed by Winkler’s conclusion that the individual-rights view of the Second Amendment is likely the right one. Winkler shows that private gun ownership has been part of American culture since the earliest days of the Republic, and that abolishing guns entirely as other countries have would not only be practically unworkable, but unconstitutional. 

Gun ownership maximalists will be disappointed by Winkler’s corollary observation that gun control has always been part of America as well. In both post-Revolution America and the Western frontier, state and local laws strictly regulated firearm possession. Even more surprising, the National Rifle Association supported the first federal gun control laws in the early 1900s, before its relatively recent hard turn against firearm regulation in the later twentieth century.

Gunfight provides an optimistic reminder that there can be a reasonable middle ground between the strident extremes that increasingly characterize the national dialogue about guns. And it delivers these lessons by weaving the fascinating tale of the Heller litigation, from the origins of the sweeping anti-gun laws adopted by the District of Columbia to the case’s contentious march through the federal courts to the ultimate triumph in the Supreme Court of unheralded libertarian lawyer Alan Gura over legendary appellate litigator Walter Dellinger. 

The citizens of this nation have 'always had both gun rights and gun control,' Winkler concludes. 'Americans don’t need to choose between two absolutes.' The charged contemporary debate about guns in America would benefit tremendously if it incorporated some of the reasonable middle-ground wisdom from Gunfight."

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