Mary Anne Franks is Professor of Law at the University of Miami Law School. Several years ago, she published a book, The Cult of the Constitution, which has a very interesting sub-                      title: Our Deadly Devotion to Guns and Free Speech.

I somehow missed this book when it first appeared, but for that matter, so did just about everyone else in both Gun-nut Nation and Gun-control Nation. So, I’m going to make up for lost time right now and begin by saying that Professor Franks has written a significant and important book.

I’m no Constitutional scholar, so my ability to write a seriously critical review of this work is somewhat limited, except when it comes to discussing the 2nd Amendment, or what the author refers to as ‘the cult of the gun.’ When the author talks about cults, she is really focusing on what she refers to as Constitutional ‘fundamentalism,’ which basically means interpreting the Constitution the way it was written by a group of 55 white men who came to Philadelphia to write and replace the Articles of Confederation with a new document which would serve to maintain the patriarchal social structure of a bunch of former British colonies now reborn as states.

What Professor Franks doesn’t mention is that of those 55 delegates, 34 happened to be attorneys, whose legal expertise and knowledge was largely a function of the British Common Law tradition, which still marks much of contemporary American jurisprudence to this very day.  Indeed, if you read the District of Columbia v. Heller opinion by Justice Scalia, which gave Constitutional protection to private ownership of handguns back in 2008, you will note that much of his text is a discussion of legal notions and definitions from the Common Law.

The author’s concern about how fundamentalist attitudes have crept into the interpretation of the Constitution, particularly the 2nd Amendment, grows out of the idea that ‘reverence and ignorance’ form the bedrock of fundamentalist beliefs. These beliefs are then strengthened by promoting the idea of victimhood, particularly the victimization of white men living in a world increasingly diverse and less open to the traditional patriarchal, heterosexual authority of those white, gun-owning men.

I can’t think of another public narrative out there which is more strongly promoted by one side over the other than the totally false and reverential idea that walking around with a gun will protect someone from becoming the victim of a crime. This nonsense has been the basic way in which the gun industry has kept itself in business for the last forty years since Americans stopped hunting and quit buying hunting and sporting guns.

On the other hand, I think the author’s attempt to push what she refers to as the gender, racial and socio-economic disparities between how armed, self-defense is protected for white men as opposed to everyone else, may be creating an argument which goes a little too far.

The biggest, single problem we encounter in discussing gun violence is that not only is most gun violence committed by individuals who do not have legal license to own or use a gun, but we have absolutely no idea about how many illegally owned guns are out there being carried around. So, to compare changes in gun laws (e.g., making it easier to carry a concealed gun) to changes in gun violence is to connect two phenomena which may have no real connection at all, no matter what those regression analyses endlessly promoted by public health researchers happen to say.

The smartest thing the NRA ever did to keep itself in business was to start referring to gun owners as ‘law-abiding gun owners’ as opposed to armed individuals who use their guns to break the law. And here is where Professor Franks needs to possibly reconsider her narrative because the idea of not backing down in the face of a real or imagined threat happens to be a longstanding American behavior which transcends the whole issue of the ownership and use of guns.

Between legislation and court decisions, standing your ground has become accepted behavior in more than 40 states. You can’t pin that widespread culture on the nefarious behavior of the NRA. America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ has always been reactive to the way the average person thinks, not the other way around.

That being said, The Cult of the Constitution is a very good and thoughtful book. Professor Franks has written a work which needs to be read.