If you are reading this then you surely know about the Orlando nightclub shooting, the worst such attack in the history of the U.S. Frankly, I'm surprised it has taken this long for something like this to happen. The U.S. -- in fact, the entire Western world -- is chock-full of soft targets, and the fact that this sort of thing doesn't happen more often is evidence that run-of-the-mill terrorism is not actually a serious problem. (By run-of-the-mill terrorism I mean terrorism that does not employ WMDs, which is indeed a potentially serious problem.)
I don't want to minimize the tragedy or the pain of the friends and families of the victims, but the (sad) fact of the matter is that 50 dead is not a very big number in the grand scheme of things. Twice as many people died in traffic accidents on the same day. Their deaths are no less tragic, the pain felt by their friends and families no less real, but they don't get the media attention because another 100 people will die in traffic accidents today, and another 100 tomorrow, and another 100 the day after that. It is really important not to lose sight of the fact that terrorism grabs the headlines in no small measure because it is rare.
We will, of course, go through the usual ritual of handwringing about the second amendment. Liberals will shout, "Well-regulated militia!" and conservatives will retort, "Right of the people!" and at the end of the day, again, nothing will change because a majority of U.S. citizens seems to believe that 50 innocents dead is not too high a price to pay for the freedom, or at least the perception of freedom.
The real tragedy IMHO is that neither side of the debate actually makes a principled argument, or acknowledges the simple fact that technology has changed the situation on the ground in ways that demand changes in the law. Physics and economics constrained the carnage in 1791 in ways that it no longer does today. An automatic assault rifle can do a hell of a lot more damage than a muzzle loader, and even the NRA concedes (tacitly!) that it's probably a bad idea to let people buy RPGs or SAMs or tactical nukes at the Walmart without a background check.
And therein lies the fundamental problem for gun-rights advocates. The argument that the individual right to bear arms is a line of defense against tyranny is untenable. An assault rifle might slow the jack-booted thugs down a little, but it won't stop them. The government has tanks and predator drones. You don't, and you never will. If we ever get into a situation where your AK-47 is the only thing standing between us and tyranny, we are screwed.
Guns are not effective defenders of freedom, but they are powerful symbols of freedom. Freedom means that individuals get to make choices for themselves that other people don't approve of, and in particular, that the government doesn't approve of. They get to say unpopular things, take unnecessary risks, worship unfashionable deities. People have a right to bear arms not because AK-47s will stop the government from abusing its power, but because taking people's guns is in and of itself an abuse of that power if the people do not consent to having their guns taken. And they don't. The fact that their rationale is bogus doesn't matter. Making bogus arguments is also one of the privileges of freedom.
Freedom is the ability of people to make choices for themselves. Sometimes bad things happen as a result of those choices. That is the price of freedom. Is it worth the cost? That is the argument we should be having. But we aren't because all of the players are firmly dug-in to absolute but unprincipled and hence ultimately untenable positions. We've been here before. It doesn't end well.