Prof. Cornell Responds!

I’ll give him credit for that, anyway. Here is his email in its entirety:


Thanks for the e-mail. I wonder how you feel about Nelson Lund’s NRA chair at GMU law school. Would you say he is shilling for NRA? Any way, I am in the midst of grading essays so I can’t respond to all of the errors in your blog. I think you confuse laws aimed at preventing slave revolts and the infamous Black Codes enacted after the Civil War, with earlier laws aimed at reducing gun violence. I agree with you that Tucker is quite important, but I fear you have taken his writings out of context. Tucker’s primary concern is with the danger posed by disarmament of the militias during the Alien and Sedition Crisis, not an individual right of self defense. The latter right was well established under common law and Federalists showed no interest in enacting laws that might impact this right. What Tucker wished to guard was the right of citizens to keep and bear arms in state controlled militias. In this sense, this aspect of Tucker’s thought does not fit either of the modern theories of the Second Amendment. I suggest you read my forthcoming book on the subject. You will find quite a few surprises in it.

In regard to Mr. Lund, the answer is “yes.” Like yourself, Professor, I’m certain Mr. Lund believes what he says, but I also believe he wouldn’t be sitting in an NRA-endowed chair if he wasn’t aligned with the NRA’s agenda.

I’ve taken Tucker out of context? I quoted, so far as I know, the entire passage concerning Tucker’s understanding of the Second Amendment. I find it difficult to believe I have misinterpreted Tucker when he says The right of self defence is the first law of nature: in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible,” and “Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction. In England, the people have been disarmed, generally, under the specious pretext of preserving the game: a never failing lure to bring over the landed aristocracy to support any measure, under that mask, though calculated for very different purposes. True it is, their bill of rights seems at first view to counteract this policy: but the right of bearing arms is confined to protestants, and the words suitable to their condition and degree, have been interpreted to authorise the prohibition of keeping a gun or other engine for the destruction of game, to any farmer, or inferior tradesman, or other person not qualified to kill game. So that not one man in five hundred can keep a gun in his house without being subject to a penalty.”

He’s talking about the individual rights of possession and self-defense, and organized defense against tyrannical government. What part did I get wrong? And are you not championing “robust regulation” – by government – up to and including “broad-scale prohibition?” The very thing Tucker decried? Sorry Professor, but that’s more pretzel-logic.

After your book comes out, I’ll see if I can pick one up on the used market. I’m sure it will be as fascinating and fact-filled as Michael Bellesiles’ Arming America.

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