Washington Post: Lund, Polsby Comment on Second Amendment

The notion that the Constitution confers an individual right to own a gun is one that "for a very long time was just laughed at," says Professor Nelson Lund in a Washington Post article examining how the NRA helped reshape the public's views of the Second Amendment. "A lot of people thought it was preposterous and just propaganda from gun nuts," he explains.

The earliest arguments for an individual right to gun ownership under the Constitution began to appear in the 1960s and 1970s, with an overwhelming consensus up to that time that it was a settled question that the Second Amendment was a guarantee of states' rights, not an individual's, a consensus that Lund says was "based on ignorance."

The article cites a rise in scholarship advocating the guarantee of individual gun rights in the 1980s with the strong support of the NRA for funding of seminars, research, and writing competitions aimed at placement of articles in law reviews. 

"The result has been a profound shift in legal thinking on the Second Amendment," says the article's author. "And the issue of individual gun-possession rights, once almost entirely ignored, has moved into the center of constitutional debate and study."

Lund is Mason's Patrick Henry Professor of Constitutional Law and the Second Amendment, a chair endowed by the NRA Foundation in 2003.

Dean Daniel D. Polsby says of the endowment, "What they were looking for was a means of legitimating the fact that the Second Amendment had arrived as a legitimate subject of study in constitutional law."

How the NRA helped reshape views of the Second Amendment, The Washington Post, March 14, 2013. By Peter Finn.

"Throughout most of American history, there was little academic interest in the Second Amendment. From 1912 to 1959, only 11 law journal articles were published on the subject, all of them endorsing the prevailing opinion that it 'affects citizens only in connection with citizen service in government-organized and -regulated militia,' according to an analysis by Robert J. Spitzer, a professor of political science at the State University of New York at Cortland and the author of 'The Politics of Gun Control.'

"The first articles advocating an individual right appeared in the 1960s, and scholarship endorsing that view took off in the late 1970s. From 1980 to 1989, as NRA support began to be felt, 38 articles on the Second Amendment were published in academic journals, 21 of which advocated an individual right. In the following decade, 87 articles appeared and a clear majority - 58 to 29 - took an individual-rights position, Spitzer's analysis showed."

Read the article