Goddammit, gun people, you’re driving me crazy. I’m one of those liberals who’s on your side. Well, I’m on your side inasmuch as I accept the fact that the Supreme Court has ruled, twice, that the Second Amendment creates a personal right to own certain kinds of firearms, including handguns, and I see no point in wasting valuable time, money and effort trying to overturn those rulings, or to repeal or modify the Amendment, when there are tools at our disposal to address gun violence today. For the record, if I was on the Court I probably would have found that the Second Amendment creates a personal right to own at least some types of firearms as against the federal government, but not as against state and municipal governments. But the Court, as they say, isn’t final because they’re right; they’re right because they’re final.
Still, even the most Scalia-est of Justices – meaning, in this case, Scalia himself – acknowledged that the Second Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms “is not unlimited”; that it’s “not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose”; that “nothing in [the landmark Heller decision] should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms”; and that “the sorts of weapons protected [by the Second Amendment] [a]re those ‘in common use at the time’ [the Amendment was adopted].” District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), quoting United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174, 179 (1939).
When your chief advocate on the nation’s highest court says those things, my gun-owning friends, you ought to take him seriously. More to the point, you ought not to flinch or go rabidly mad every time anyone suggests that maybe we ought to consider – consider, mind you – exploring some of the constitutional options Justice Scalia laid out in the Heller opinion.