The right to bear firearms, if it is a right — and if that right is derived from the U.S. Constitution — is not a right to hunt deer or go skeet-shooting. The right, as it’s understood by Second Amendment proponents, exists so that Americans can protect themselves from common criminals, yes, but also from an overreaching or tyrannical central government.
This line of argument gets dicey pretty fast. Seeking to undermine its logic on one of his recent gun-themed programs, CNN’s Piers Morgan — whose gun control sympathies are no secret — baited two pro-gun activists by asking them if they believe the Constitution allows them to have a tank.
In one sense this is farce. Yet in ways understood by gun rights advocates, ordinary Americans’ access to the same firepower as the police or military is precisely the point of the Second Amendment. Not everyone agrees, but this much is true: In the 1960s and 1970s, this very point was made by armed anti-war radicals, liberal activists, and proponents of black power.
Nor is the idea that there is some measure of safety in owning your own firearm limited to those who fear the federal government, either.
“I have a Glock 9 millimeter and I’m a pretty good shot,” one prominent woman born in that era proclaimed in 2010. The speaker’s name was Gabby Giffords.