First amendment protections for the use of firearms
In a recent discussion with some folks I found it necessary to defend my ownership of an AR-15, and my enjoyment of shooting the rifle with 20 and 30 round magazines. It was a friendly debate, but they were focused on "what purpose could a 30 round magazine have?", and my arguments for the recreational aspects of competitive and non-competitive shooting were unconvincing. The discussion turned to "what purpose does competitive shooting (such as 3-gun matches and IPSC) serve?"... I was not at my best, and I don't think I made a very good case.
But the discussion led to further thought on my part. Why do I enjoy shooting my AR-15? I am quite interested in owning an M-1 Garand... Why? A 1903 Springfield and a Mauser K-98 is on my list of guns I would like to someday own... Why? I remember shooting an FN-FAL some years ago, and I really enjoyed it. Why?
For me, the answer to "why" is this... I enjoy shooting the implements of war that have served our nation in the past. I enjoy studying the weapon and the tactics it led to. It enables me to relive and connect with the past in a very concrete way.
I believe that shooting my AR-15 (and any other military arm I might own in the future) is protected under the first amendment as a freedom of expression. It is the embodiment of the Declarations "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". It is no different than musicians playing on a street corner, or Civil War re-enactments, or sporting events.
The first amendment has been found to protect some pretty unpopular speech and activities over the years (Nazi marches, flag burning, etc). So it does not matter if many, or even most, Americans don't understand or approve.
If the act of shooting an AR-15 is protected under the 1st, how far can the government go in restricting my access to equipment necessary to exercise my freedom of expression?