That might sound academic or outlandish next to the real-life horror of a school shooting, but the fact remains that we can’t simply wave off the Second Amendment any more than we can wave off the First, or the Fourth, or any of them. They are constitutive elements of the American idea, without which the entire constitutional system would eventually collapse.

In this, America is unlike the European nations that gun control advocates like to compare it with. Germany can restrict the right to bear arms as easily as it can—and does—restrict free speech. Not so in America. If we want to change that, it will involve a substantial diminishment of our constitutional rights as we have known them up until now. After last week’s school shooting, some Americans are okay with that, especially those families who are grieving. But I suspect most Americans are not willing to make that trade-off, and might never be—unless they suffer the same of kind personal loss.