It is important to realize that this book is not really about the 2nd Amendment. Instead, Malcolm seeks to chart the development of the English conception of a right to keep and bear arms, which clearly has influence upon the 2nd Amendment. The history of the English right is fascinating. It began as an onerous duty that many Englishmen resented and Malcolm traces the development of the right during the violent 17th century during which many Englishmen were disarmed as a means to stem any armed opposition. The right was created in 1689 as a means of ensuring that an armed citizenry would always be available to oppose a standing army.
I lack the background to critique Malcolm's English history, but there are a few areas where I think Malcolm runs into problems. One is interpretation. Malcolm stresses the change in the 1689 right from a right to bear arms "for their common defence" to "their defence," arguing that this shows a determined choice to abandon a collectivist right in favor of an individual right. I personally think this was more about simplifing language than a fundamental change in the right's conception. But, more importantly, I think this underscores the limitation of speaking about a right in individual versus collective terms. Here, Malcolm concludes that the English right was "individual" and then goes on to lay out all of the collective defence reasons that the right was necessary, i.e. a fear of Catholic plots and of standing armies.
2nd Amendment absolutists shouldn't see this book as their savior because, even if we accept Malcolm's conclusion that the 2nd Amendment was based upon the English conception, it still would not stop gun limitations, or bans, in the U.S. While Malcolm supplies a quote from William Rawle claiming that the 2nd Amendment limits the power of the states, constitutional practice holds otherwise. The 2nd Amendment only limits the federal government because the Supreme Court has not yet, and probably won't in the near future, incorporated it into the 14th Amendment. Moreover, Malcolm's final chapter underscores this fact because she lays out the reasons the 2nd Amendment was felt to be necessary, a fear of federal military dominance. The entire chapter is replet with references to the fear of a federal standing army and the need for states to maintain an armed citizenry. Therefore, the 2nd Amendment was necessary to remove the possibility that the Federal government would disarm the people.
My only other criticism is minor. Malcolm cites the position of the 2nd Amendment as 2nd as evidence of its importance. This a shockingly amateur mistake for a historian to make. The fact is that the 2nd amendment was originally the 4th one proposed on a list of 12, the first two failed to be ratified (though one was ratified 2 centuries later). Both of these where only technical changes rather than "rights" and the fact that the right to keep and bear arms is 2nd is more accidential than by design.
For the most part I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would strongly recomend it, though the limitations on Malcolm's dealing with American constitutionalism should not be forgotten. Readers will gain a much needed lesson in the the English tradition from which the American union developed.