In 2008 and 2010, the Supreme Court delivered two landmark Second Amendment decisions. The cases involved were, respectively, District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago, Illinois. The Court, in these cases, held that the Second Amendment guarantees the individual’s right to keep weapons for the purpose of self-defense and that this right is applicable to the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Before these rulings, existing law indicated that the Second Amendment applied only to the federal government, and that the right protected was merely one to keep those types of arms useful to a militia.
Theodore L. Johnson’s book was published in 2002, several years before these rulings. In it, he anticipates much of the Supreme Court’s analysis for these holdings. In particular, he examines the semantics of the Second Amendment in regard to the mind-set of the framers and criticizes constitutional interpretation found in pre-Heller case law. These are all steps that the Court took to support its 2008 and 2010 rulings.
Johnson’s research is formidable, and he reproduces much of his source material in appendixes for reference. What should give readers pause, however, is that Johnson sometimes blurs the distinction between the Court’s commentary and actual ruling. For instance, he erroneously concludes, that the Supreme Court “has defined the Second Amendment as protecting against infringement by the federal government or the states of the right of an individual to possess and carry arms….” at a time when the Supreme Court holding that the Second Amendment did not apply to the states was still in effect.
Readers seeking a balanced approach to Second Amendment concerns may also be disturbed by the author’s heavy use of pro-gun anecdotes, which detract from the weight of the book and tip it toward polemic. Because of this slant, and because some of its material has been overtaken by more recent Court decisions, this book is likely to appeal only to those advocating less restrictive gun laws.
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