The Second Amendment debate about what the Founders intended was clarified in 2008 when theSupreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller determined that the right of the people to keep and bear arms included individuals, not just a “well-regulated militia.” However, as Winkler pointed out, Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion left wiggle room for exceptions, including prohibitions related to felons and the mentally ill. Scalia was not casting doubt, the justice wrote, on “laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

This still leaves open the loophole of private sales that do not require background checks, which President Obama wants to close. We will hear more about this in coming weeks, but the call meanwhile to ban assault weapons or limit magazines in the wake of the horrific mass murder of children and others at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut is hardly draconian. It won’t solve the problem of mentally disturbed people exacting weird justice from innocents, but it might limit the toll. Having to stop one’s rampage to reload rather breaks the spell, or so one would imagine.