In The Positive Second Amendment: Rights, Regulation, and the Future of Heller
(Cambridge University Press, 2018), Joseph Blocher
and Darrell A.H. Miller
insist that the Second Amendment is widely recognized but fundamentally misunderstood by the public and public officials. Misconceptions about what the amendment allows, forbids, and how it function as law distort American debates and public policy. Blocher and Miller provide a nuanced synthesis of politics, history, and legal arguments to recover a more balanced discourse – what they call a “positive” Second Amendment” – that accommodates both a right to bear arms and reasonable regulation.
Blocher and Miller begin with a puzzle. After the Sandy Hook shootings, 90% of the public and 74% of NRA members supported background checks for guns purchased at gun shows and online – yet the Manchin-Toomey Amendment failed in the Senate. The power of interest groups, Blocher and Miller insist, does not fully explain the disconnect between public opinion and policy. Examining the powerful constitutional rhetoric around what is “allowed” by the Second Amendment provides a fuller picture of the political and legal landscape. The book systematically works through the legal history of the amendment to demonstrate how extremists on both sides fail to understand the Second Amendment. Written in clear terms (such that it can be read by citizens, students, and scholars), The Positive Second Amendment
provides accessible and balanced scholarship on a polarizing topic in politics and law.
The podcast concludes with thoughts on the firearms law case heard by the Supreme Court in December 2019.
Susan Liebell is associate professor of political science at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. She is the author of Democracy, Intelligent Design, and Evolution: Science for Citizenship (Routledge, 2013).