THE elementary-school shootings in Newtown, Conn., in December produced two polar public reactions: fear among some Americans that the federal government will restrict gun rights, and hope among others that it will actually do so. Colorado, New York State and, most recently, Connecticut have clamped down on guns, while states like Texas, where I live, are considering legislation that would try to block the enforcement of federal gun regulations. The uncertain approach to guns is good for no one, except perhaps for gunmakers, whose sales have skyrocketed.
Lost in this confusion and anxiety is the possibility that a basic consensus on guns exists among Americans. Opinion polls suggest that a majority recognize a right to bear arms, subject to reasonable regulations protecting public safety. This strong dual commitment, if clarified and entrenched in our Constitution, could reassure most, though not all, of us.
Before you mock the idea of a constitutional amendment, consider that hardly anyone is happy with our unstable status quo: gun enthusiasts fear their rights are under constant threat; gun-control advocates point to the danger of illegal guns and easy access to firearms.