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One Nation Under Guns: How Gun Culture Distorts Our History and Threatens Our Democracy by Dominic Erdozain

One Nation Under Guns: How Gun Culture Distorts Our History and Threatens Our Democracy by Dominic Erdozain

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From Crown

his takedown of American gun culture argues that the nation’s fathers did not intend the Second Amendment to guarantee an individual right to bear arms—and that this intentional distortion of the record is an urgent threat to democracy.
Hundreds of lives are lost to firearms every day in America. The cost is more than the numbers—it is also the fear, the anxiety, the dread of public spaces that an armed society has created under the tortured rubric of freedom. But the norms of today are not the norms of American history or the values of its Founders. They are the product of a gun culture that has imposed its vision on a sleeping nation.

Historian Dominic Erdozain argues that we have wrongly ceded the big-picture argument on guns—as we parse legislation on background checks and automatic weapons bans, we fail to ask: What place should guns have in a functioning democracy? Taking readers on a brilliant historical journey, Erdozain shows how the Founders feared the tyranny of individuals as much as the tyranny of kings—the idea that any person had a right to walk around armed was anathema to their notion of freedom and the enduring republic they hoped to build. They baked these ideas into the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, ideas that were subsequently affirmed as bedrock by two centuries of jurisprudence.

And yet: the twin scourges of America’s sickness on race and its near-religious nationalism would work in tandem to create an alternate, darker vision of American freedom. This vision was defined by a mystic conception of good guys and bad guys, underpinned by a host of assumptions about innocence and guilt, power and entitlement. By the time the US Supreme Court essentially invented an individual gun right in 2008 by torturing the words of the Second Amendment in Heller—a decision that Erdozain convincingly eviscerates—many Americans had already acceded to gun activists’ perverse unfreedom. To save our democracy, he argues, we must fight for the Founders’ true idea of what it means to be free.