Of all the Constitutional debates to be had in modern America, there is very possibly none more given to incoherent statements than those surrounding the Second Amendment. It is true that big government types are given to bizarre, expansive interpretations of the Interstate Commerce Clause, say, or the General Welfare clause; but these are arguments based more or less in degree, not in kind. “What constitutes interstate commerce?” is where you must begin debating the former, for instance, and from there you can go just about anywhere (and, as the grotesque specter of Obamacare illustrates, many people will).
We can criticize the rampant statism to be found in an enormously-broad definition of “commerce,” but at least it kind of makes sense. If you’re given to mangling the English language, anyway.
The Second Amendment is different.
It reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
One may have to read it twice to understand it, but that’s about all it should take. It is remarkable in its straightforwardness: the people retain a right to arm themselves, and that right shall not be infringed. What constitutes “infringement,” is, like debating the eccentricities of commerce, a necessary debate to be had.
But no sensible debate about the Second Amendment can begin without first acknowledging the fact that it guarantees an individual right to firearms, and without first acknowledging how plainly obvious that is.