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Gun Rights: The Secret History

Last week, the Brennan Center held a fascinating discussion with Adam Winkler, author of a new book on the battle over the right to bear arms in America.

  • Erik Opsal
December 13, 2011

Just about everything everyone thinks they know about the history of gun rights is wrong. The National Rifle Association has been an implacable foe of gun control forever, right? Wrong. The NRA supported the first federal gun regulation in 1934. The Ku Klux Klan began as a group opposed to civil rights. No, it started as a gun control organization. And everyone knows the Wild West was just that — no man walked into a saloon without a six-shooter strapped to his hip. Wrong. Guns were checked with the local sheriff.

Last week, the Brennan Center held a fascinating conversation with Adam Winkler, author of the new book, Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America. Winkler, a professor at UCLA School of Law, has not only written a pioneering history of gun rights, but he challenges the bedrock assumptions of all partisans in the gun control debate. Winkler was questioned by Jeffrey Rosen, a professor at George Washington Law School and legal affairs editor of The New Republic. Their lively and provocative conversation lasts about an hour.