Memories of how it all began
Working on the documentary brings back some memories of how the 2nd Amendment reawakened.
1974-75: I'm a law student, writing my way onto Arizona Law Review, with an article that concludes gun control doesn't work. My editor, Mark Collins, says it's all policy material -- I need a legal theme for it to seem more appropriate for a law review. How about the Second Amendment? I respond there isn't much to be said on it -- it's National Guard, that sort of thing. He prods me, I do some research.
Understand, at that point in time there were maybe 3-4-5 articles on it, over the past twenty years, and most of them not worthy of notice. But I do some digging and conclude there is a solid argument to be made for an individual right. I research and write it up.
The editor in chief kills the article. Reasons given are flimsy. I get it published over at Chicago-Kent Law Review (and am given an editorship at AZ L Rev anyway). This is 1975.
In 76 or 77, Dave Caplan brings out an article on the Amendment. Somewhere in here Steve Halbrook commences his very productive writing career. Don Kates comes in somewhere around 1980, I think leading off with his book Restricting Handguns: The Liberal Skeptics Speak Out, and then going into articles. Bob Dowlut starts writing on state declarations of rights.
In the early 80s, we're all exchanging drafts of articles and discoveries. I do a stint in Washington, get into the Library of Congress, where I find Lord Somers' notes on the 1689 British declaration of rights. Often the discoveries are interlinked. Steve discovers Tench Coxes' article, I discover that Madison wrote him a thank-you note. BUT all of our articles are in reviews with modest standing ... Case Western, Northern Kentucky, that manner of thing.
1983: Kates gets an article in Michigan Law Review. It's one of the top ten, maybe top five, reviews in the country. Scholars may never see an article in the other reviews, and if they see it, will skim it. But articles in the top reviews get read. (It also has a side-effect, when a student named David Kopel is assigned to verify all its citations, and becomes interested).
We continue publishing away. In 1985-86, I get two into the Harv. Journal of Law and Public Policy and the Journal of Law and Politics (they're linked on the sidebar). I esp. liked the latter one, but they're not big time reviews. Dave Kopel commences his own, and very productive, writing career. Steve gets involved with the 14th Amendment angle and publishes on that.
Late 1980s or early 90s: Prof. Sanford Levinson of Texas, a very big name in Con law, after being intrigued by Kates' article, publishes in the Yale Law Journal, I think, and William van Alstyne then of Duke, another big name, publishes in the Duke Law Journal. Now you have big names AND big reviews involved. Akhil Amar of Yale follows (with articles on the Bill of Rights and 14th Amendment in general, but concluding there is a manner of individual right there).
By around 2000, the individual rights view is being described as the "Standard Model" of the Second Amendment (and the term is first applied by an opponent of the individual rights view). Quite a turnaround in 25 years!