Author Interview
10:30 am
Fri August 8, 2014

The History Behind One Of The Most Contentious Amendments

Credit Michael Waldman's book "The Second Amendment: A Biography"

Most Americans don’t question an individual’s right to own a gun, with certain exceptions. But in an age when senseless public shootings make frequent headlines, many question the limits of gun ownership. 

And though a large majority of Americans say they support expanded background checks for gun ownership, Congress can’t come to any agreement on possible legislation.

Here in Washington state there are competing initiatives on the November ballot. One would expand background checks, the other limit them.

But what exactly is our right to gun ownership? The Second Amendment reads as follows:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

This wording left a wake of confusion and disagreement in American political history. But a 2008 Supreme Court decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, which for the first time recognized an individual’s right to own a gun, raised the focus on the debate.

In his new book "The Second Amendment: A Biography," author Michael Waldman attempts to clarify the murky history of that debate and those 27 words.

Waldman spoke at Town Hall Seattle on July 7 as part of their Civics Series.

He is the president of the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law. His other books include "My Fellow Americans: The Most Important Speeches of America’s Presidents from George Washington to Barack Obama. "

Thanks to Anna Tatistcheff for this recording.

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