Back in 1997, the famous actor Charlton Heston called the Second Amendment “America’s first freedom.” The recent battle to defend this freedom is the subject of Shall Not Be Infringed, a book co-written by former president of the National Rifle Association David A. Keene and prominent attorney Thomas L. Mason. The authors paint a detailed but accessible picture of the history of gun control post-1990, focusing primarily on Congress, the Supreme Court, national media, and the United Nations.
With endorsements from the editor of the Washington Times and the National Chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), Shall Not Be Infringed is a formidable tool in the hands of any American concerned with defending gun rights. Releasing the book shortly before November’s election, Keene and Mason predicted that if Hillary Clinton became president, Americans would “lose their individual right to keep and bear arms.” Although this has not come to pass, Second Amendment activists and the liberty movement in general should still read this book cover-to-cover. Gun control remains a priority for many politicians after decades of bitter debate, and you can be sure that this trend will continue long into the future.
Part One of the book concentrates on recent developments in the domestic gun control debate, beginning with an overview of the key players in the contemporary arena of gun politics. Of particular interest is the book’s discussion of the highly-publicized “Fast and Furious” scandal, which saw the U.S. government force gun shops near the Mexican border to allow Mexican criminals to buy guns without passing background checks.
Although the stated aim of the program was to track these guns and arrest high-level criminals, the illegally-purchased guns were found at numerous crimes scenes. Until the details of the program were leaked, the idea of illicit gun-smuggling across the Southern border was being used as a justification for emergency gun controls. As the authors put it:
“The end game of Fast and Furious was clear: achieving gun control regardless of the costs in lives and property.”
The remainder of Part One focuses on how arguments for gun control have played out in the Supreme Court, as well as the various ways in which the gun control lobby is attempting to undermine the culture of gun ownership in America.
Shall Not Be Infringed highlights the 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller decision as a victory over the so-called “collective” interpretation of the Second Amendment that first emerged among legal scholars in the mid-1960s. However, this affirmation of the individual right to bear arms wasn’t extended to all states until 2010 with McDonald v. City of Chicago. This case involved an African-American military veteran, Otis McDonald, who was originally refused permission to keep a gun in his Chicago home for self-defense purposes. The book’s subsequent discussion of gun control’s racist history is a welcome addition, although the attitudes expressed elsewhere in the text towards criminal justice reform are arguably less in keeping with libertarian thought.
If you read just one section of Shall Not Be Infringed, make it Chapter Three. The authors take the reader on a whirlwind tour of various gun control policies and systematically demolish the arguments deployed in support of them. Whether it’s the “gun show loophole,” legislation on background checks, or other “common sense” regulations, Keene and Mason expose the inconsistencies and flaws behind the most popular anti-gun measures proposed in recent memory.
Following this, the book moves on to the subject of international efforts to enact gun control via the United Nations. Much of Part Two is devoted to explaining why “the role of liberal, anti-gun NGOs in persuading the U.N. to go after private arms cannot be underestimated.” Charting the history of gun control initiatives in countries like Great Britain and Australia, Shall Not Be Infringed explores how the emerging international consensus in favor of restricting gun rights has impacted the strategy of the domestic anti-gun lobby, as well as the responses of organizations like the NRA to this new threat.
The centerpiece of international efforts to enact gun control is the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which was signed (but not ratified) by the United States in September 2013. Keene and Mason discuss the process behind the creation of the treaty, what its adoption would mean for gun rights, and its dubious constitutionality. The author’s insight into the inner workings of the U.N. is interesting in its own right, but the book really comes into its own when highlighting the many shortcomings of the ATT.
Finally, Shall Not Be Infringed ends with an impassioned call to arms for supporters of the Second Amendment.
Part Three is an excellent resource for activists, containing numerous ideas for ways in which individuals can help ensure that the right to self-protection endures far into the future. Students For Liberty is an active defender of the Second Amendment, having previously run “Not Just A Gun” campaigns and other gun-related activist events. We’re proud to recommend this book as a primer for anyone interested in the ongoing fight against restricted firearm ownership.
Shall Not Be Infringed can be purchased here.