More than two hundred years after James Madison drafted the Bill of Rights, Americans have yet to agree on the meaning of the awkwardly constructed Second Amendment: 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. This week, the Supreme Court has struck down Washington, D.C.’s longtime ban on private handgun ownership. The District’s law, among the strictest in the nation, prohibits residents from keeping handguns in their homes and requires that licensed firearms be kept unloaded, disassembled, or equipped with a trigger lock. City leaders have argued that the policy is necessary to prevent gun violence, but last March an appellate panel (siding with six residents who wanted to keep handguns for protection) struck down the law on the grounds that the Second Amendment grants gun rights to individuals, not just collectively to a militia.
Over the past few decades, The Atlantic has provided context for the gun control debate, weighing in with articles examining the legal, historical, and cultural roots and implications of our attitudes toward gun ownership.
In February 1977, Dorothy Weil advocated for gun control by poking fun at the opposition’s argument. With tongue firmly in cheek, she referred to gun-control as “un-American,” and joked that the “Saturday Night Special” was a reflection of American democracy, in that its low price enabled the poor as well as the rich to possess firearms. Her satire culminated with descriptions of various proposed gun models, such as “The Sensitivity Special” or “Group Therapy”: “Its dumdum bullets open a person up to others. Favored by police trying to improve neighborhood communications.”