Akhil Reed Amar is a professor of constitutional law at Yale and writes books about the Constitution.
I’ve read one, The Bill of Rights. I needed to read it very slowly. It is brilliantly written and easy in that sense to understand. Yet it is complex and demanding —and in that sense hard to understand. I think the professor is a genius.
I met him once and told him what I thought about The Bill of Rights, i.e., I was both stunned and awed. He had made me think in ways I never had, and changed my mind about some things I believed I understood.
He is a very nice, charming guy. He hastily assured me that he hadn’t really written The Bill of Rights for laymen; he thought of it as a scholarly text, but in a subsequent book, called America’s Constitution: A Biography, he had written for laymen.
Thing is, whenever I confess to myself that I am as prone to knee-jerkism on the Constitution as almost anyone — since I don’t always have the time to think deeply and long about a whole bunch of tangled questions, I will occasionally fall back on my preconceptions and rely on thoughts I may have developed years ago, with the satisfied sense of, OK, I just polished off that issue so I don’t have to spend a lot of time on it in the future — I can read Akhil Reed Amar and be gently but firmly made to think differently on that same subject I believed was fixed properly in my mind.
And it was because of The Bill of Rights that I first swallowed the bitter possibility that the Second Amendment might mean what gun rights crazies say it does.
So I read Professor Amar’s Daily News opinion piece, “When legal bullets bounce back,” with fascination and a certain gratitude, because he suggests how we gun control people can manage our weaponless despair, come to terms with the Second Amendment and actually use recent lousy Supreme Court decisions to help our cause.
P.S. Professor Amar is writing for us laymen here, without condescension. Again, I am profoundly grateful to him.