Let’s get this out of the way first:
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
That’s the Second Amendment. Most reasonable people interpret it to mean that the people of the U.S. have a constitutional right to form a militia; e.g., a National Guard, an armory. Some reasonable people interpret it to mean that every individual has the right to own a gun for self-protection, although arriving at this conclusion is something of a stretch from the amendment’s actual wording.
But no reasonable person interprets the Second Amendment to mean that anyone—and I mean anyone—is entitled to purchase automatic weapons and then conceal those weapons on their person until, like 24-year-old James Holmes in Colorado yesterday, they determine how they’d like to use them.
Site of the Colorado shootings. Credit: Ed Andrieski/AP Photo
Nor do most reasonable people belong to the National Rifle Association, the most feared and most loathsome political lobby in the United States. Most reasonable people aren’t like Representative Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican, who lamented the fact that other people in that Colorado movie theater weren’t "carrying" and were thus deprived of an opportunity to open fire themselves.
Colorado did make some attempt to pass new gun control laws after Columbine, in 1999. Not much was accomplished, as the shootings yesterday in Aurora demonstrate. Not much could be accomplished in present-day America, where virtually everyone holding political office kowtows to the raw power of the NRA.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a notable exception. He was bold enough to declare that "Maybe it’s time that the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they’re going to do about it."
Unfortunately, in a climate where anyone who even mentions gun control is accused of "exploiting the victims" of the latest senseless atrocity, that’s unlikely to happen.