THE furor over gun control has raged across the American landscape for decades, with a sustained intensity and intractability found among few other issues. Despite all that has been written on the subject, no comprehensive political and policy analysis on gun control exists, even though the gun debate is precisely a political dispute over the proper scope and consequences of government policy.
At its heart, the gun debate is a question about the relationship between the citizen, the state's power to regulate, and the maintenance of public order. All these relationships come together under the public policy umbrella and are thus amenable to a policy analysis that has as its central question: should gun possession and use be significantly regulated? In raising this question, I am not primarily concerned with the efficacy of each and every regulatory alternative, although most receive treatment here, but with the regulation principle as it applies to the gun issue. This is no esoteric exercise; every political dispute over some new effort to regulate guns invokes broader questions of government regulation.
The regulatory question is given coherence and context within a larger framework of policy analysis. Far from being an idiosyncratic issue that defies generalized analysis, the gun issue fits into a broader policy pattern, labeled social regulatory policy, that provides considerable predictive and explanatory power for the observed political trends.
This framework provides the organizational pattern for the analysis in this book. Chapter I lays out primary traits of the gun controversy, its social and cultural roots, and the social regulatory policy framework. Chapter z is devoted exclusively to the meaning, interpretation, and consequences of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, the much cited yet little understood right to bear arms. The talismanic quality of the