The incredible history of the 2nd Amendment and America’s gun violence problem | Jill Lepore

August 12th, 2019

Big Think

Give yourself the gift of knowledge — subscribe to Big Think Edge: Gun safety laws have a historical precedent in the 1939 court case U.S. v Miller. - In 1765, the Britain Parliament passed a Stamp Act, but people in New England rebelled against it. In response to this, the king sent two regimens of the British army to Boston to occupy the city. They were much despised by Bostonians, and this occuptation led to the Boston Massacre in 1770. Since then, many have interpreted the Second Amendment to mean the right of the people to bear arms to aid them in a possible insurrection against the government. - The Supreme Court in 1939 in U.S. v Miller, decided unanimously that gun safety laws are perfectly constitutional — the justices declared that the Second Amendment does not protect the rights of an individual to carry firearms. They said the Second Amendment protects the right of people to form militias, or to participate in the common defense. - According to many historians, bearing arms evokes a military use for the common defense — not for shooting rabbits or for the insurrection against one's government. It seems the purpose of the law is to allow citizens to participate in defense of the country against a common enemy. Jill Lepore is the David Woods Kemper '41 Professor of American History at Harvard University. She is also a staff writer at The New Yorker. A prize-winning professor, she teaches classes in evidence, historical methods, humanistic inquiry, and American history. Much of her scholarship explores absences and asymmetries in the historical record, with a particular emphasis on the histories and technologies of evidence and of privacy. As a wide-ranging and prolific essayist, Lepore writes about American history, law, literature, and politics. She is the author of many award-winning books. Her latest book is These Truths: A History of the United States ( If you're interested in licensing this or any other Big Think clip for commercial or private use, contact our licensing partner Executive Interviews: Read more at Follow Big Think here: YouTube: Facebook: Twitter: