The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America

Bloomsbury. Jun. 2021. 272p. ISBN 9781635574258. $28. POL SCI
In this latest work, Anderson (White Rage) argues that the rights afforded under the Second Amendment represent a double standard and have never fully applied to Black Americans. She traces the origins of the right to firearms ownership to pre-Revolutionary War militias, which were formed to control enslaved people and uphold white supremacy. The author explains that during the Constitutional Convention, a deal was reached to enshrine both gun rights and white supremacy, in order to ratify the Constitution at the expense of Black people; nevertheless, slaveholders feared uprisings by enslaved people, and sought to curtail the ability of Black people to legally obtain firearms. This fear persisted after the end of slavery, which led to a series of restrictive laws. Anderson follows gun rights and restrictions throughout U.S. history, addressing Black codes, the Black Panthers, and the Southern Strategy, among others. Finally, she argues that recent police killings of Black men demonstrate that open carry, stand-your ground, and castle doctrine laws are cast aside when Black people are involved.
VERDICT An important but too-compact analysis that might leave readers wishing for more. Like Anderson’s previous works, this is essential for everyone interested in U.S. history.
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