The Second Amendment has become a source of hysteria. Living with Guns, published by PublicAffairs on November 13, 2012, was written in an attempt to defuse some of that hysteria, to show how the Amendment came to be, and how it came to be misunderstood. It will also try to show how Americans on both sides of the debate about guns can find common ground. We can live with guns; we have no other choice, with so many of them around.
Do Americans have an individual constitutional right to own and use guns? Living with Guns maintains that the Second Amendment says they do. A conservative majority of the Supreme Court says they do, too, in two 5-4 rulings in 2008 and 2010 against handgun bans in Washington, D.C. and Chicago. The court went further, finding that the Second Amendment gave Americans that right primarily for self-defense. State legislatures all over the country say Americans have an individual right to firearms; all but two states (and some cities, like New York) allow carrying of handguns in most places. “Stand your ground” or “Castle Doctrine” laws in many states make it easier to legally justify killing in self-defense. Yet the constitutional right to bear arms does not make people who carry guns a law unto themselves.