The Jan. 6 insurrection aside, guns are allowed at protests in most states. The Founders enshrined a single Second Amendment right in the text of the Constitution, but modern gun-rights advocates, conflating history and mythology, have invented a cluster of rights around it. They have successfully pushed the notion that the right to bear arms and the right to peaceably assemble, added together, equal some sort of supersized right to armed assembly. For them, the idea that exercising their Second Amendment rights could infringe on any other cherished liberties is unthinkable. How could exercising two constitutional rights together possibly make a constitutional wrong?
It could. That’s because the founding generation viewed a right of armed assembly as the legal definition of a riot. Modern Americans obsess about the right to bear arms, but in that earlier generation, there was at least as much concern about the now-forgotten right not to bear arms, a form of freedom viewed as equally worthy of preserving. Above all, the authors of the Second Amendment believed that the preservation of the peace and freedom from armed intimidation was essential to civil society and the key to protecting well-regulated liberty.