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This week, in response to the killings of 17 people in Parkland, Florida and earlier mass shootings, AEI visiting fellow Ramesh Ponnuru wrote an insightful piece on the gun control debate. In it, he argues for modest approaches to curb gun violence that can secure bipartisan support. While some people are calling for a complete repeal of the Second Amendment, Ponnuru cautions that this approach would likely fail, exacerbating national divisions.
Read Ponnuru's latest:
Whether you favor repeal or think it is a fantasy, as Ponnuru suggests, a deeper understanding of what the Second Amendment is prompts this From the Archives column. An essay by the late AEI scholar Robert Goldwin who edited and contributed to a magnificent series of AEI volumes on the Constitution does just that. In May 1998, Goldwin penned an essay titled, “What Does the Second Amendment Mean?” wherein he attempted to dispel public misconceptions about this controversial amendment. Goldwin wrote: “[W]hat is predictable in the political arena, whenever the subject of guns comes up, is the rhetoric invoking the Second Amendment, and the seeming certainty about the meaning of the Second Amendment.” He went on to note that while little doubt is expressed about its meaning in the political terms, the judicial arena is “an entirely different situation . . . There simply is no modern jurisprudence that explains to judges the meaning of ‘the right to keep and bear arms’ and the scope of their authority to decide that a given piece of legislation constitutes an infringement on that right.” From that statement, Goldwin proceeds to a close analysis of the wording of the successive 1789 versions and the historical context in which the Second Amendment came to be.
Read the full text of Goldwin's Second Amendment analysis:
A recent reference to Goldwin in the Wall Street Journal last Saturday in a review of two new books on political polarization attests to the long-term significance of his work.
Looking for more From the Archives stories? Check out our latest work on such topics as bitcoin, agriculture policy, Washington’s history of political scandals, Nobel laureates, the North Korea threat, and much more.
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