In 2007, for the first time in nearly seventy years, the Supreme Court decided to hear a case involving the Second Amendment. The resulting decision in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) was the first time the Court declared a firearms restriction to be unconstitutional on the basis of the Second Amendment. It was followed two years later by a similar decision in McDonald v. City of Chicago, and in 2022, the Court further expanded its support for Second Amendment rights in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen--a decision whose far-reaching implications are still being unraveled. To Trust the People with Arms explores the remarkable and complex legal history of how the right to bear arms was widely accepted during the nation's founding, was near extinction in the late twentieth century, and is now experiencing a rebirth in the Supreme Court in the twenty-first century.
Robert J. Cottrol and Brannon P. Denning link the right to bear arms with other major themes in American history. Prompted by the eighteenth-century belief that arms played a vital role in preserving the liberties of the citizen, the Second Amendment met many challenges in the nation's history. Among the most acute of these were racism, racial violence, and the extension of the right to bear arms to African Americans and other marginalized groups. The development of modern firearms and twentieth-century urbanization also challenged traditional notions concerning the value of an armed population. Cottrol and Denning make a particularly important contribution linking the nation's participation in the wars of the twentieth century and the strengthening of the American gun culture. Most of all, they give us a nuanced and sophisticated legal history, one that engages legal realism, different varieties of originalism, and the role of chance and accident in history. To Trust the People with Arms integrates history, politics, and law in an interdisciplinary way to illustrate the roles that guns and the right to keep and bear arms have played in American history, culture, and law.