The Return of the Second Amendment

Seven years ago, in an article for COMMENTARY called “Yes and No to Gun Control,” I briefly endorsed the views of constitutional scholars who argue that the Second Amendment’s right “to keep and bear arms” actually imposes practical limits on gun-control laws. The article generated a storm of criticism in our letters section, and I replied at length. With the Second Amendment now in the news, thanks to last week’s federal appeals court ruling striking down the District of Columbia’s ban on handguns, the case against what the New York Times editorial page calls “the right to ban arms” is very much worth rehearsing. Here are the relevant sections of my December 2000 reply to critics:

A noteworthy feature of the letters from Michael Beard of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and Eric Gorovitz of the Million Mom March Foundation is the complete absence of any mention of the Second Amendment. Indeed, as far as the organized gun-control movement is concerned, this part of the Bill of Rights is completely irrelevant to the present-day policy debate, and imposes no limits of any kind on the sort of legal restrictions that may be placed on firearms and their owners.