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Gun owners push back: a former marine's letter to Dianne Feinstein

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"I am not your subject," he continues. "I am the man who keeps you free. I am not your servant. I am the person whom you serve. I am not your peasant."

As Democrats, led by President Obama, have pushed to expand the purview of the federal government in recent years, a recoil has ensued – on display in the rise of the tea party, a massive run on guns, and an explosion in the number of concealed-weapons permits. At times, the recoil has taken on tones of warning and alarm. Many in this camp, especially in the wake of several mass shootings last year, fear that America is entering a postconstitutional era where basic precepts like the Second Amendment are curtailed by a central authority.

"If you take out the heat and the emotion of this [Connecticut] tragedy, the reaction is an interesting case study in public versus individual rights," says James Wright, a sociologist at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. "It puts the issue on a knife point in a way that a lot of other issues don't. It's hard to deny the public interest in gun crimes, but at the same time there's that old Second Amendment, and it's hard to deny what it seems to imply."

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