In the beginning, the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was simple enough: When it comes to defending himself and his loved ones from enemies foreign, domestic and animal, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.

Those were the days when discharging a shot from one’s musket necessarily led to reloading by pouring powder and a new ball in the old muzzle-loader before the next target could be sighted. The military had bigger and heavier cannons at their disposal, but I don’t think their use was presumed under the right of the people to keep and bear arms.

Like an overwhelming number of Americans, I firmly believe in the Second Amendment. Although I’ve never owned an operational firearm, I’ve been hunting a time or two, and I spent two years in the Army where I learned to handle a now-obsolete M-14. Unlike the all-or-nothing stance of most spokespeople for the National Rifle Association, however, I’m not so sure the provision in the Bill of Rights grants carte blanche to whosoever will to arm themselves to the teeth with all of the state-of-the-art weapons designed for military use.

There actually are laws in place that ostensibly limit the firepower available for civilian use. Of course, that’s accompanied by loopholes to allow for installation of bumpstocks, high-capacity magazines and such that can turn otherwise legal weapons such as AK-47s or AR-15s (I know you’ll correct me if I’m not completely correct on this) into killing machines that enable a would-be Rambo to turn a neighborhood schoolhouse or shopping center into a war zone in a matter of seconds.

I understand, for instance, that the (alleged) sicko who shot up Dayton recently had a gun that could fire 100 bullets before he needed to reload. Many gun enthusiasts insist they find these kinds of weapons useful for hunting. But if they need 100 nonstop bullets to kill a deer or even to stave off a bear, maybe they ought to try fishing instead.

The sophistication of weapons, the deteriorating mental state of increasing numbers of Americans and the love affair so many seem to have with the violent lifestyle portrayed in many of today’s movies and video games has created a climate of fear among most urban residents these days. What can be done?

Contrary to widespread belief, background checks and weapon-tracking systems need not cause alarm among law-abiding citizens who want to protect themselves. It may be impossible, of course, to completely shut down the black market. But troubled or egocentric youths who harbor delusions of going out in a blaze of glory need to be weeded out before they can use legally obtained weapons to blow away classmates or night club patrons.

While we’re at it, maybe we can instill some sort of respect for law enforcement to replace the adversary relationship that exists all too often.

Jim Bailey’s column appears on Thursday. He can be reached by email at

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