cover image The Hidden History of Guns and the Second Amendment

The Hidden History of Guns and the Second Amendment

Thom Hartmann. Berrett-Koehler, $14 trade paper (168p) ISBN 978-1-5230-8599-6

In this lucid but partisan treatise, Hartmann (The Crash of 2016), a nationally syndicated progressive radio host, dismisses the conventional wisdom that the Second Amendment was intended as a bulwark against an overreaching government. He contends that it was actually intended to serve two purposes: ensuring the continued existence of colonial “slave patrols”—state-sanctioned militias that hunted escaped slaves—and to prevent a standing army, which Thomas Jefferson believed was a threat to democracy that could only be remedied by a Swiss-style citizen militia. Hartmann follows this analysis with a passionately argued indictment of America’s gun culture, which he identifies as the source of mass shootings and white supremacist violence. He criticizes current trends in the U.S. that facilitate gun culture, among them excessive money in politics (which allows gun manufacturers outsize political influence), a wrongheaded Supreme Court, and growing inequity in general, which 40 studies link to increased rates of violence in a society. Hartmann’s proposed solutions include laws requiring “smart guns” that only fire for an authorized user, bans on semiautomatic weapons, and diminishing racial inequality (and therefore violence) through integration, reparations in the form of affirmative action, and better educational opportunities for African-Americans. This lucid but decidedly radical polemic will probably not convince those who disagree, but it will speak to progressives. (June)