Law Professor Brannon Denning published his newest book, “To Trust the People with Arms- The Supreme Court and the Second Amendment,” on Oct. 6, co-authored with Robert J. Cottrol, of George Washington University. The book focuses on the history of the second amendment and the subsequent laws that have restricted gun ownership.
“It is a history of both the development of American gun culture, [and] the rise of a social movement that sought to curtail or restrict that culture … but was in turn displaced by another social movement that sort of sought to restore what had been the traditional understanding of the Second Amendment, which was that it guaranteed an individual’s right to privately own firearms’” Denning said.
This wasn’t Denning’s first book on the subject; he has devoted much of his professional research to second amendment law. He first became interested in this topic as a law student. Denning was a research assistant for his mentor, Glenn Reynolds, who was writing an article at the time about gun rights in Tennessee. This research sparked his interest in the topic, and Denning has been working on it ever since.
“It got me interested in doing more research and writing, it was an area that not a lot of people were writing in at the time, and it’s just sort of something that I developed an interest in and stayed with over the years,” he explained.
Professor Denning co-authored the book with Robert Cottrol, whose main job was to discuss the Supreme court cases that were related to the main issues Denning was researching.
“The second part of the book really digs into the supreme court cases,” Denning said. “My job was to take those chapters and really tell a story about the individual supreme court cases themselves, which involved reading debriefs, summarizing them, trying to make the oral argument read like dialogue and summarize the opinions.”
Denning enjoyed collaborating with Cottrol, especially on a topic they are both interested in.
“The best collaboration is one in which when you read the finished product, you can’t remember whether you or your co-author wrote that particular piece,” Denning said.
Denning also uses his expertise to teach a class called Guns and Law for the Cumberland School of Law.
Regarding the balance of writing and teaching, he said “It’s tough sometimes, especially when you figure in administrative responsibilities.”
However, for Denning, it all flows together as his teaching informs his writing and vice versa.
Chandler Burleson, a third-year law student, has taken Professor Denning’s Guns and Law class, as well as Constitutional Law One and Two. He affirmed Denning’s dedicated study to the subject.
“He’s clearly dedicated his entire life to studying this area,” Burleson said. “The best way to sum that up is to say that he’s a genius when it comes to the second amendment and the constitution. I don’t think that there’s a single question that you could ask him that he wouldn’t be able to just quote a case to tell you the answer.”
Although the Second Amendment is quite a controversial issue, Denning hasn’t faced much backlash, mainly because he tries to present all sides impartially.
“Bob’s and my aim in this book was to be fair to all of the positions, even if we undoubtedly have our own view, which we are forthright about,” Denning said
This unbiased approach to a somewhat controversial issue is evident in Denning’s teaching style as well.
“Something I love about Professor Denning is that he doesn’t just tell you his views, he gives you the law and lets you decide,” Burleson said.
The biggest takeaway that Denning hopes readers gain from his book “is that for a social movement, whether it’s gun control or gun rights, to succeed, elite support is a necessary but not sufficient condition for success.”
Denning says that this most recent book is possibly the one he’s most proud of, as it’s his first monograph.
“This was a new experience, and it was something that I was glad to see the fruition [of],” Denning said.