This is my TIME.com column on the Sandy Hook massacre. It’s a version of the piece I posted here a couple days ago.
It’s a familiar drill for millions of travelers: bare feet shuffling on a cold floor, belt off, emptied pockets, personal effects exposed for maximum humiliation. This surely constitutes an unreasonable search and seizure without probable cause, explicitly prohibited by the Fourth Amendment. Yet we cede this constitutional right to the executive authority that controls our borders millions of times every day.
When it comes to protecting freedom, Americans, including those on the Supreme Court, recognize that personal liberties must often be modified for the safety and protection of others. Yet today’s gun rights advocates routinely cite the Second Amendment of the constitution—the right to bear arms—when threatened by commonsense proposals to limit, but not eliminate, modern-day weaponry. Constitutionally protected freedoms are routinely curtailed in the name of public safety, morality, or even convenience. Our right to free speech is routinely regulated through obscenity laws. Slander, libel, pornography; we’re muzzled all the time. So, too, are our rights to assembly and religion compromised. You can’t stage a protest at noon in the middle of Times Square. A parent can’t deny a child lifesaving medical care or education.
We’re also willing to cede our more prosaic rights — to drive at maniacal speeds, pollute our waterways, blow cigarette smoke in people’s faces, not wear seat belts or helmets, and on and on — because, mostly, we hold the sensible view that our right to freedom is tempered by someone else’s right to be free from our injurious, costly escapades. But while our current reverence for the Second Amendment seems to go back to the founding fathers, it’s actually evolved over time and reflects cultural norms honed over several decades by lobbying and public relations groups…