“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.”
Fortunately, a well-regulated militia is no longer necessary to the security of a free state. It’s not 1789 anymore. We now have the largest “defense” establishment in the world, as well as the FBI, CIA, NSA, ATF, Border Patrol, National Guard, state police, local police, security guards and mercenaries keeping us secure. We devote more energy and resources to security than any other country in the world.
But we’re stuck with the Second Amendment for now. The question is: how should that amendment be interpreted?
In practice, some people interpret it this way: “the right of just about anyone to own and operate the latest in high-tech firearms shall not be infringed”. That’s an extremely liberal interpretation.
After all, none of the rights mentioned in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution are absolute. We certainly don’t have an absolute right to life (you can be executed for certain crimes, especially in Texas), liberty (you can be locked up for lots of reasons) and the pursuit of happiness (ditto). You can’t say whatever you want or assemble wherever you want or even practice your religion however you want.
Living with other people means having our rights restricted. In line with that fact of life, we should all start interpreting the Second Amendment in a reasonably restricted way:
“The right of the people to own and operate firearms shall not be infringed, but shall be subject to appropriate regulation, consistent with everyone’s more important rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.
Even Justice Scalia agrees that the right to bear arms is restricted. The next problem, however, is that he and his like-minded colleagues won’t accept regulation that sufficiently protects other people’s rights to avoid death or injury at the hands of someone with a gun.