Historians have argued for decades that the Second Amendment has nothing to do with the right to own a handgun nor even with the right to use a gun in self-defense. Nevertheless, a counternarrative—bolstered by the National Rifle Association—has triumphed in the popular mind and been codified to some extent in the Supreme Court’s ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), which said that the Second Amendment “protects an individual right to possess a firearm.”
If a lot of African-Americans back in the '60s had guns and the legal right to use them for self-defense, you think they would have needed Selma? . . . If John Lewis had had a gun, would he have been beat upside the head on the bridge?
Here's some good news: despite our short collective attention span, despite the fiscal-cliff debacle dominating the headlines shortly after the Newtown shooting, the U.S. scourge of gun violence is still part of the national conversation.
President Obama’s speech in Newtown on December 17 included this pivotal question: “Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?” The president is bristling here at the way our political discourse reflexively leaps to claims about individual rights and freedoms.