The National Rifle Association has promised to give President Obama "the fight of the century" over his new gun control proposals. Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre says this is "about banning your guns . . . PERIOD!" Assorted conservatives accuse Obama of trampling on the Second Amendment.
Can we get a grip? I'm plenty skeptical of the president's gun measures, which I've criticized before and will again. But this sort of regulation would be a trivial inconvenience to law-abiding gun owners. And the Constitution doesn't guarantee that no one shall ever be subject to any regulation whatsoever when a basic right is involved.
Conservatives sometimes forget that gun control is intended to advance the core function of government: upholding public safety and assuring citizens of the right to live their lives without fear of violence. That responsibility gives the government considerable authority to fight crime.
Gun-rights advocates sometimes act as though this purpose is wholly illegitimate, and that the government should simply allow citizens to defend themselves.The right of self-defense is important, but it's not unlimited -- particularly when it poses a physical danger to others. Nor does it negate the state's rightful role in pursuing public safety.
Obama's proposals deserve to be criticized because they are misdirected and most likely ineffectual. But they are also pretty modest. If you couldn't buy an "assault weapon," you could buy innumerable other guns that would be equally potent. The Second Amendment doesn't live or die depending on the fate of 30-round magazines.
There are plenty of practical flaws in the administration's plan. Those who value gun rights should spend more time pointing those out, and less time crying wolf.