(Crossposted from the American Constitution Society :: Columbia Law School)
Although I do not agree with people who find a right to privately own firearms in the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution, I see their point. This amendment — along with a Congressional Commerce Power limited only by prudence and a 9th Amendment that either does nothing or everything — represents some of the most ambiguous, sloppy drafting in the entire Constitution. Although I don't think you have the constitutional right to buy one gun per month (a limit Virginia has placed on individual gun ownership), I see how people can seize upon the 2nd Amendment's sloppy drafting to claim that they do have such a right.
On the other hand, the people whom I do not understand are those people who ignore the historical accident of the 2nd Amendment and attempt to argue from first principles that a universally armed society is preferable to a less-than-fully-armed one.
When Kathryn Lopez, conservative blogger at The Corner on National Review Online, says:
If you want domestic tranquillity, an armed and responsible citizenry ready and able to protect life and property is not a bad way to start....she is calling for a type of Wild West society that has been rejected by the rest of the developed world.
Argue from the Constitution that you have a 2nd Amendment right to private gun ownership and I'll begrudgingly admit that you have a textual leg to stand on. Argue from first principles that the best society is one where we're all armed and I'll remind you that you stand in sharp disagreement with the rest of the developed world.
Update (4/19): My brother-in-law & sister-in-law (...once removed? What do you call the person who married your brother-in-law?) are living in France for several months, and here's Ilia's take on the tragedy at Virginia Tech.
The most telling passage:
In reading the French newspapers concerning the tragedy I noticed that they kept using the English terms "mass murder" and "school shootings" in lieu of using a similar phrase in French. Is it that they simply don't have the words for such atrocities, or are they so common in the US as to be better known around the world by their English names?