Saturday, September 17, 2011, 5pm ET.

Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America

Chat with Adam Winkler about his new book. Hosted by Mark A. R. Kleiman.

Gunfight promises to be a seminal work in its examination of America’s four-centuries-long political battle over gun control and the right to bear arms. In the tradition of Gideon’s Trumpet, Adam Winkler uses the landmark 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller, which invalidated a law banning handguns in the nation’s capital, as a springboard for a groundbreaking historical narrative. From the Founding Fathers and the Second Amendment to the origins of the Klan, ironically as a gun control organization, the debate over guns has always generated controversy. Whether examining the Black Panthers’ role in provoking the modern gun rights movement or Ronald Reagan’s efforts to curtail gun ownership, Winkler brilliantly weaves together the dramatic stories of gun rights advocates and gun control lobbyists, providing often unexpected insights into the venomous debate that now cleaves our nation.

Adam Winkler, a professor of constitutional law at UCLA, mines 400 years of debate over gun control in America to analyze the Supreme Court’s landmark 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller in this timely and persuasive history. Dismissing the extremist “gun nuts” and “gun grabbers” who have dominated the gun debate for decades, the author clearly shows that the right to bear arms and gun control have always coexisted in the U.S.—even on the frontier where guns and gun regulation were widespread. The brainchild of a pair of libertarian lawyers, the Heller case revolved around the District of Columbia’s total ban on handguns and the contention of Heller’s lawyers that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual’s right to own guns. Clearly mirroring the impasse over the issue, it offered the courts a rare opportunity to point toward a historically valid compromise position. In 2008, after five years of dramatic litigation, the Supreme Court struck down D.C.’s handgun ban and recognized the plaintiffs’ individual rights theory while still noting that many forms of gun control are constitutional. In the tradition of 1976’s Simple Justice and 1964’s Gideon’s Trumpet, Winkler skillfully weaves together history and contemporary jurisprudence to explore a contentious issue of constitutional interpretation. (W.W. Norton)