And there's another myth, with a special risk of its own. The myth has it that the Supreme Court, in a case called United States v. Miller, interpreted the 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" -- as conferring a special privilege on the National Guard, and not as affirming an individual right. In fact, what the court held is only that the right to bear arms doesn't mean Congress can't prohibit certain kinds of guns that aren't necessary for the common defense. Interestingly, federal law still says every able-bodied American man from 17 to 44 is a member of the United States militia.
What's the special risk? As Alex Kozinski, a federal appeals judge and an immigrant from Eastern Europe, warned in 2003, "the simple truth -- born of experience -- is that tyranny thrives best where government need not fear the wrath of an armed people."
"The prospect of tyranny may not grab the headlines the way vivid stories of gun crime routinely do," Judge Kozinski noted. "But few saw the Third Reich coming until it was too late. The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed -- where the government refuses to stand for reelection and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees. However improbable these contingencies may seem today, facing them unprepared is a mistake a free people get to make only once."