"It's a huge sea change, and one lesson to take out of all of this is that it's amazing how fast attitudes on constitutional issues can change," says Glenn Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and the author of "An Army of Davids." "The thinking has turned in a way that many thought to be impossible only 15 years ago."
Resistance to the ubiquity of guns remains, of course, mainly in the urban North. It is perhaps telling that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is prohibited from seeking another term and who has millions of his own money to spend, has become the preeminent gun-control spokesman in the country. Freshman Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is worried about an overly armed populace, too: Last month, he proposed a statewide registry for handgun owners.
But the vast majority of the momentum on guns is on the side of people who want a .30-30 rifle in their cabinet at home and the right to carry a Ruger in their coat pocket – anywhere. It is being driven, in part, by what could be called a "militia of one" mentality. While 20 years ago many people were arming themselves as part of a nostalgic identification with citizen armies, many today see carrying a gun in public as an essential right and a legitimate, even necessary, tool to ease peculiar and particular American fears about personal protection.