The Book

The Founders’ Second Amendment:
Origins of the Right to Bear Arms

By Stephen P. Halbrook, Ph.D., J.D.
Published by Ivan R. Dee, Publisher, for The Independent Institute, 2008
448 Pages, Hardcover, Index, 6 x 9

Do Americans have a constitutional right to bear arms? Or is this power vested solely in government? Recent years have seen a sea change in scholarship on the Second Amendment. Beginning in the 1960s, a view emerged that individuals had a “right” to bear arms only in militia service—a limited, “collective” right. But in the late 1980s Dr. Stephen Halbrook and a handful of other scholars began producing an altogether persuasive analysis that changed thinking on the matter, so that today, even in canonical textbooks, bearing arms is acknowledged as an individual right.

Stephen Halbrook’s The Founders’ Second Amendment is the first in-depth, book-length account of the origins of the Second Amendment, based on the Founders’ own statements as found in newspapers, correspondence, debates, and resolutions. Dr. Halbrook investigates the period from 1768 to 1826, from the last years of British rule and the American Revolution through to the adoption of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and the passing of the Founders’ generation. His book offers the most comprehensive analysis of the arguments behind the drafting and adoption of the Second Amendment, and the intentions of the men who created it.

With the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller upholding the Second Amendment as protecting an individual right to bear arms, The Founders’ Second Amendment could not be more timely.

Table of Contents:

Part I: Disarming the Colonists

Chapter 1. “The Inhabitants to Be Disarmed”
Chapter 2. From the Tea Party to the Powder Alarm
Chapter 3. The Arms Embargo and Search and Seizure at the Neck
Chapter 4. A Shot Heard ’Round the World and a Cruel Act of Perfidy

Part II: Of Revolution and Rights

Chapter 5. Times That Try Men’s Souls
Chapter 6. “That the People Have a Right”
Chapter 7. “A Musket to Defend These Rights”

Part III: The Constitution and Compromise

Chapter 8. A Constitution With No Bill of Rights
Chapter 9. The Dissent of the Minority
Chapter 10. Virginia Tips the Scales
Chapter 11. “A Majority That Is Irresistible”

Part IV: To Keep and Bear Their Private Arms

Chapter 12. Mr. Madison’s Amendments
Chapter 13. The Bill of Rights in the States
Chapter 14. The Great Militia Debate
Chapter 15. Old Founders Never Die, They Just Fade Away

Conclusion: What Does the Second Amendment Say?

Click here for a more detailed summary of The Founders’ Second Amendment.