Over the past 50 years, a wide-ranging, well-funded political, cultural, and legal revisionism effort has been undertaken to erase much of the United States’ history and culture of the gun and the Second Amendment. The New York Times’s Nick Kristof’s recent column, “It’s Time To Talk About The NRA” (because no one’s been talking about them!) is a good example of this trend.
I’ll ignore Kristof’s partisan contentions about firearm violence, gun control, and the National Rifle Association’s lobbying, fundraising and scoring—much of it highly debatable—to point out three of the misleading historical assertions he embraces.
First, Kristof makes the claim that contemporary firearm advocates, in an effort to “reinterpret” the Second Amendment, had “expanded the gun-buying constituency by reframing the purpose of firearms from hunting to personal security.” As even a cursory reading of the Founders and American leaders through the 19th century can attest, this is untrue.
The predominant philosophical concern driving the creation of the Second Amendment was protection from domestic or foreign tyranny, or protection of personal property and life. As John Adams explained (quoting legal authority William Blackstone) when defending a British soldier who had fired into an American mob in 1770, self-defense was “the primary canon in the law of nature.”