The Supreme Court has never addressed the question, although the Bush administration, which has never seen a wedge issue it didn't like, says gun rights belong to individuals. That could change, as a lower court judge in Washington, D.C. recently upheld the district's long-time ban on gun ownership.
"We interpret the Second Amendment in military terms," said Todd Kim, the District's solicitor general, who told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that the city would also have had the authority to ban all weapons.Gun mania took off in the US after the Civil War, when millions of veterans returned home with their rifles. Enterprising weapons manufacturers stoked our interest in the shooting sports, and a new industry was born - privately owned handguns and rifles.
"Show me anybody in the 19th century who interprets the Second Amendment the way you do," Judge Laurence Silberman said. "It doesn't appear until much later, the middle of the 20th century."
The Second Amendment is like the crazy uncle living in the attic. Nobody wants to address the problem, so we just accept the absurdity of a constitional amendment that protects unfettered gun ownership. Courts have chipped away at the right over the years - gone are the rights to own machine guns, sawed off shotguns, shoulder-launched surface-to-air-missles and suitcase nukes. But why? The court won't say. It just seems sensible, and few will argue the point.
The problem, after all, is the second amendment. It was written at a time when state militias were a legitimate impediment to an overreach of power by the federal government. But fast forward 200 years, and there's not much that a well-armed citizenry can do against a modern air-force, and mechanized infantry divisions, unless the feds want to arms us with some serious hardware. Which they don't. It's bad enough the Crips are packing Uzis. How do you feel about flame throwers and grenade launchers?