Second Amendment Documentary May Convince Many Unbelievers
February 10, 2007
by Joseph P. Tartaro
Debate over the meaning of the Second Amendment to the US Constitution often reminds me of heated theological arguments.
On the gun rights issue there are basically two camps: 1. those who believe the Second Amendment confirms an individual right that existed before the Constitution was written and, 2. those who believe that the Second Amendment only confers a right for the states to arm militias. There are variations on both themes just as there are different camps in the various major world religionsProtestant vs. Catholic Christians; Orthodox vs. Reformed Jews; Shia versus Sunni Muslims, etc.
Among those who hold that the Second Amendment does not guarantee an individual right to keep and bear armsthe collective right theoriststhere is a sort of agnostic subset that claims whatever it means, the Second Amendment is no longer relevant and should be repealed.
But as the debate gets fueled from time to time by collectivist editorials and op-ed columns like that written by Clifford M. Herman, a trauma surgeon at Harborview Hospital, which was published in The Seattle Post Intelligencer’s Jan. 23 issue, serious scholars seek to find the objective evidence in the legal and social history of our nation.
Among the latter is a Tucson, AZ-based lawyer and author I have known for many years who was once a solicitor for the Interior Department and who has been an important player in many gun-related cases.
He is David T. Hardy and while he has researched constitutional law and American history for most of his adult life, he set out to do so in greater detail some four years ago with the idea of producing a documentary that would explain what he discovered to average citizen and scholar alike. Unlike Herman, who claims with little support that the arguments favoring the private ownership of handguns in this country are based on two myths, Hardy’s documentary addresses all the empirical evidence in a subjective manner.
“The first myth is that the Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees private citizens the right to own handguns.” He says “the National Rifle Association has succeeded brilliantly and cynically in convincing the public that the amendment consists only of the part that follows the comma” about the “militia.”
Herman writes that during the American Revolution “George Washington, had to rely on the willingness of each colony to send its militia of private citizens, each man carrying his own rifle, to join the effort.
“… It was only the heroic efforts of Washington’s tattered volunteers that prevailed and eventually formed what would become the United States of America.
“Only then did a collection of militias become what we have long known as a national militia. We call it the National Guard,” Herman states, not knowing or failing to mention that the National Guard was not formed until more than 100 years after the Revolution.
“The second myth,” Herman continues, “is that every private citizen needs a handgun to protect his loved ones and property against intrusion by burglars. This is a pernicious untruth. As a longtime trauma surgeon at Harborview Medical Center, the main center for treatment of all kinds of wounds and injuries, I cannot recall a single patient who had been shot by the resident of a private home while attempting to burglarize it. I believe my surgical colleagues would agree with that assessment….”
Ironically, Herman says, “Those are the two myths responsible for the ubiquitous presence and use of handguns in Seattle and elsewhere in this country. They attest to the ignorance of our citizens and our laziness in not even reading and learning the history of the Second Amendment to our Constitution.”
Herman is obviously one of those who would repeal the Second Amendment, but I wonder if Herman would change his mind if he could watch Hardy’s recently released DVD, “In Search of the Second Amendment.” For that matter, I wonder how many devout anti-gunners might change their minds after viewing the whole 111 minute presentation of facts by some of the most learned constitutional law scholars and historians in this countryliberals and conservatives alikefrom some of our leading colleges and universities.
It took four years for Hardy to produce “In Search of the Second Amendment” and he has put together an absorbing documentary with astonishing new facts, sources and documents. He was aided in this odyssey of discovery by some of the foremost academics in the US today. His stars include: Profs. Joyce Malcolm; Glenn Reynolds; Eugene Volokh; Randy Barnett; Daniel Polsby; Nelson Lund; Nicholas Johnson; Brannon Denning; Akhil Amar; Robert Cottrol; Sanford Levinson, and Gary Kleck.
Through interviews with professors of constitutional law, historians, and legal experts and citing original historical documents and legal opinionsmany previously unknown, any viewer should come to a full understanding of the Second Amendment throughout our nation’s history.
Also participating in the dialogues, and offering more evidence in support of an individual right conclusion, are: Sandy Froman; Carol Bambery; Stephen Halbrook; David Kopel; Don B. Kates; Roy Innes, and Clayton Cramer.
The movie begins with re-enactments of the battles of Lexington and Concord and traces the meaning of the Second Amendment from the 18th century to the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s.
Along the way it cites sources you may never have heard mentioned before, including such names as Saint George Tucker, William Rawle and Thomas Cooley, as well as many other important 19th century figures that might be more familiar.
“In Search of the Second Amendment” also traces the origins of the collective right theory to an obscure 19th century Kansas court decision which was later massaged into a more familiar “National Guard” theory.
Produced and directed by Hardy, who also narrates, the movie is an engrossing, professional production from both video and audio standpoints. Nicely paced, it grips the attention of views better than many big-budget films and DVDs. If there are any brief glitches in sound or picture, they occur during the brief use of archival film of an American Enterprise Institute symposium on the Second Amendment held several years ago.
I have never seen the story of the Second Amendment so ably presented. This documentary deserves to be seen not just by editorialists like Dr. Herman, but by all Americans who want answers about the American right to keep and bear arms. Even the most devout pro-gunner will gain solid new historical reinforcement after watching this documentary. Those who espouse the collective right theory will find their convictions shaken to the core, not by emotional arguments, but by sober and reasoned evidence.
“In Search of the Second Amendment” in DVD format costs $24.95 plus $2 shipping and handling. Every serious firearms civil rights activist should have a copy, not just for their own edification, but to show to service clubs, unions, scouting and church groups, schools and any group with an open mind. Maybe even to share with editorial boards at newspapers and broadcasting stations. Some may even be successful in getting segments broadcast on local access TV stations.
Hardy notes that “As of March 31, 2007, any purchaser of this DVD is given a non-exclusive license to show it on local cable access television. Any purchaser is also licensed, as of this moment, to show it to groups, meetings, and at fundraising events, and to donate it to libraries and schools. Libraries and schools are freely licensed to circulate it and show it to classes.”
You can get a preview and order a DVD copy of “In Search of the Second Amendment” on-line at: www.secondamend-mentdocumentary.com. It can also be ordered from Second Amendment Films LLC, 8987 E. Tanque Verde, PMB 265, Dept. GWK, Tucson, AZ 85749. Return to Archive Index