The New York Times has just reported that US Supreme Court has ruled today that the "right to keep and bear arms" described in the Second Ammendment to the Constitution is to be construed to protect:
"an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia,
and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense
within the home" - District of Columbia v. Heller
I'm trying to stay open on the issue of the Second Ammendment. It's one of the few issues where you can actually find meaningful discussion of the issue (as opposed to emotional wailing and gnashing of teeth) without too much effort. (Of course, you can find emotional wailing, gnashing of teeth and macho posturing with even less effort).
The source of the Second Ammendment argument, it seems to me, is that the ammendment was generated by politics. It was carefully reworded numerous times in its development so as to say nothing that would offend any of the groups whose votes were needed to get it to pass (hunters opposed to British poaching laws, states rights proponents worried about the their state's ability to keep the federal government in line, revolutionaries wondering if they might need to go through all this again, and on and on). This means that it's a bit vague, and that certain definitions included in earlier versions have been purposely ommitted. It's basically designed as an argument in written form!
Since there were as many intents for the ammendment as there were people working on it, an appeal to Intent is doomed to fail. We can only worry about what it says:
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
If you're politically minded, dig into this one a bit, you'll no doubt find it fascinating. I've particularly enjoyed these takes on the issue:
David Brin sci fi author, futurist, and philosopher on a possible approach
Dave Kopel of the National Review on the grammar of the ammendment
Wikipedia, of course, has a lot of good background (though I haven't sifted through all of it yet)
If you have any good ones I should read, mention them in the comments!