Patrick J. Charles knows more about the Second Amendment than most. After spending a decade pouring over microreels filled with evidence of the founders’ contentious drafting of the Constitution, the U.S. Air Force senior historian and legal scholar penned three books parsing out the context behind the nation’s conception of gun ownership.
In his latest effort, Armed in America: A History of Gun Rights from Colonial Militias to Concealed Carry, Charles asserts historical record does not support the individual right to bear arms as we know it today. Rather, the founders believed in arming the populace for the sole purpose of a well-trained militia — a fact the courts and others seemingly ignore.
His opinion doesn’t sit well with the gun rights community. This, despite his belief the Supreme Court got it right with the landmark Heller v District of Columbia in 2008. He also says partisan reimagining of Second Amendment history isn’t limited to conservatives, either.
“Whether you’re talking about the collective rights argument or whether you’re talking about the individual rights arguments, there’s been people on both sides who’ve misappropriated historical evidence over time or failed to fully contextualize it,” he said. “So that’s what really kept driving me forward (in my research).”
His work has garnered the attention of federal judges in the Second, Fourth, Seventh, Ninth and D.C. District Courts of Appeals. Even Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer used a passage from the historian’s previous book in the landmark McDonald v. City of Chicago — the 5-4 decision that affirmed the Second Amendment applies to state and local governments — saying the flawed historical record of Heller meant the constitutional right of gun ownership for private self-defense was muddy, at best. ...