OP here...Thanks for the responses. A lot of food for thought here. I definitely hadn't considered looking at the state constitutions, though I do sometimes refer people to writings of the time (such as the Federalist Papers) when I want to make people understand what our Founders meant when they drafted our Constitution and the original ten Amendments.
My thought is that you have ballistic weapons (all types of small arm, from muzzle loaders to rotating mini-guns)...and then you have just about everything else (RPGs to fighter jets to cruise missiles to nuclear weapons). While I've generally said that people have a right to buy all of the former and none of the latter, I did run across at least one guy who told me that in the late 18th century, some well-to-do private citizens did own cannon and even warships...in other words, the rough equivalent to anything fielded by the Continental Army or Navy of the time. It is difficult for me to extrapolate that to modern military weaponry, simply because 2012 military equipment is many orders of magnitude more powerful than 1787 military equipment. What I resent, however, is when a gun grabber tries to use this observation to force me to concede that I shouldn't have access to a semi-auto AR-15 or AK pattern rifle either.
If I could have a grown-up conversation with one of these people (few and far between, sadly)...I'd tell him that I definitely think the answer to gun violence of the type we've seen recently is an end to "gun free" zones, an expansion of concealed carry, and some thought given to arming the schools (every teacher carries all the time, one loaded firearm locked up somewhere on each campus, or something in between). On that last point, my thought is that if anything it's more important to arm educators than it is mall shoppers or theater goers...simply because a school contains hundreds of minors who (by definition) can't own or use firearms and therefore can't protect themselves like adults in a public place can. (Yes, I know a lot of children and teenagers hunt and/or shoot competitively; never mind that right now. Though yes, I think if you're 18 you should be allowed anything that 21 year olds can have.)
I've run into a lot of people who will concede the argument that the 2nd Amendment does protect an individual right to bear arms (whoopty do since SCOTUS already settled this), but then they'll turn right around and say that all of the legislation aimed at curtailing or infringing upon that right...doesn't. Such as the federal assault weapons ban, or the latest round of ill-considered legislation in the hopper at the state level. (I've become fond of pointing out that all of this was on the way anyway; the gun grabbers in Congress and the Legislature already were planning to reintroduce the AWB and the bullet button ban; this incident merely gave them some extra momentum.)
Classic response from a gun grabber: "Why does anyone need a rifle that holds 30 bullets?" My response is typically along the lines of, "Who are you to make the declaration that nobody 'needs' such a weapon? Are you familiar with every last circumstance in which such a weapon might be used? Are you a gun expert or qualified in any way to assess such needs, or are you just repeating the media's talking points?"
I don't accept such talk even from police officers or members of the military, much less a layperson. I generally don't even get into the "Statistics show, gun-friendly areas are safer...." argument. At that point they usually point to their favorite example, the UK...at which time I point to mine, Switzerland. (Thomas Sowell has a great column out illustrating that Mexico, Russia, and dozens of other places have stricter gun laws than America AND higher per-capita gun violence rates, leading me to suspect the problem is cultural.) But again, I think you need to pick your tactic - are gun grabbers wrong on principle or are they wrong on statistics?
Sometimes I'll add, "Try looking at it from the other direction - what right does government, state or federal, have to tell us what we can or can't have...and by what right does it place any obligation on us to explain ourselves? Isn't it supposed to work the other way around in America....'just consent of the governed' and all that?"
Last edited by Cylarz; 12-19-2012 at 10:47 PM..