Historians file brief in SCOTUS in support of DC gun law

Historians in the News

Can Washington DC legally stop residents from owning a handgun?

That's the question before the US Supreme Court in District of Columbia, et al v. Dick Anthony Heller, which has put the question of the Second Amendment before the court for the first time in more than half a century.

In an amicus brief filed with the Court 15 historians argue that the DC law is consistent with the Amendment's history.

They argue that the Founding Fathers intended to protect the collective right to own arms not an individual's right. "Though Anglo-American political tradition did indeed value the idea of an armed populace, it never treated private ownership of firearms as an individual right," they argue.

The signers include: Jack N. Rakove, Saul Cornell, David T. Konig, William J. Novak, Lois G. Schwoerer, Fred Anderson, Carol Berkin, Paul Finkelman, R. Don Higginbotham, Stanley N. Katz, Pauline R. Maier, Peter S. Onuf, Robert E. Shalhope, John Shy, and Alan Taylor.

Related Links

  • Clayton Cramer: Pro-gun researcher asks for help in determining which of the signers endorsed the work of Michael Bellesiles
  • HNN Hot Topics: Gun Control
  • HNN Feature: Historians as Activists
  • Read entire article at HNN Staff (Click here for the brief)

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    David E. Young - 3/28/2009

    Professor Jack Rakove of Stanford University properly disparaged "law office history” in writing the professional historians' Washington DC vs Heller amicus brief. His brief heavily influenced the four dissenting justices of the U.S. Supreme Court in that case. Surprisingly, Rakove's Supreme Court brief is a textbook example of the genre he excoriated because the professor himself extensively engaged in every one of the censured activities that produce such defective history. His brief is riddled with historically erroneous statements, internal contradictions, fallacious arguments, and it manages to largely ignore the most relevant facts relating the the development of the Second Amendment's provisions.

    Virtually the only historically related supports for Professor Rakove's Heller case argument are the historical credentials of the academics who filed the brief. Arguments from biased gun control advocating “experts” on Second Amendment history are the Root Causes of Never-ending Second Amendment Dispute. An extensive series of articles analyzing the Rakove professional historian's Heller amicus brief can be located under that title at On Second Opinion Blog: http://onsecondopinion.blogspot.com