In the present debate about gun control in the US, both sides consistently fail to push the analysis deep enough. Debate stays mired in superficial questions such as whether every child should carry an assault rifle to school.
We need to use the tools of legal analysis to get to the real underlying meaning of the Second Amendment if we are to advance the discussion.
The right to bear arms in the Second Amendment must be understood in a purposive way. The drafters discussed and wrote of the right to bear arms. It is critical they did not say the right to bear a gun. In this they showed subtlety and foresight. For what in essence is a gun? It is a device which uses a metal housing to channel an explosion into a force that you may successfully direct against your opponent. This universal principle was fulfilled only by guns in the days of the founding fathers. But today we can stretch their insights further, and appreciate that the language of the Second Amendment can grow with the times.
Due to dedicated scientists, explosive devices have become more powerful and sophisticated. Particularly in the twentieth century, the arts of arms have matured through the creation of atomic and then nuclear devices. Note that in policy debates leaders generally use the term 'nuclear arms.' That use of the term arms is entirely consistent with the Second Amendment. The founders' vision left open the possibility of future improvements in arms and gave us the right to bear them.
This makes it plain what I mean when I say that the current debate is superficial. The real question is not whether we should have assault rifles with high volume magazines. This is a distraction from the real question which is why we do not have access to nuclear arms.
Not only have arms themselves increased in power and utility but the threats we find have also increased. The founding fathers did not have to protect themselves from international terrorists, nor from as many of their own armed countrymen.
You might think I raise a mere hypothetical in that nuclear arms are cumbersome and unsuited to private use. To the contrary. There is a whole series of battlefield devices which can be produced at a cost to meet consumer demand and which fit in a backpack that the average child can wear comfortably throughout the entire school day.
Moreover, private enterprise has begun to deliver rockets suitable for private use, such as PayPal founder Elon Musk's SpaceX system. People of wealth will be able to have rockets--which we can easily see are arms, in that they use metal encasements to control an explosive force you can direct, just as the Second Amendment foresaw.
People of moderate wealth will be able to have nuclear equipped rockets with a range from Boston to Washington. For the fortunate one percent, ICBMs will soon become feasible, to not only personalize the deterrent to Pakistani and other terrorists, but to help reduce the threat to liberty posed by Euro bureaucrats and Asian entrepreneurs.
As arms evolve so must society evolve, and the basic provision for our society in this regard lies within the Second Amendment. Indeed we might say the rest of the Constitution is only a footnote to this key provision.
Only when we really embrace bearing modern arms for the modern world, and only when every American's right to bear nuclear arms is fully protected, will the real meaning of America--life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness--be realized.