Pres. Obama put it best when he stated that this weekend’s shooting in Orlando could have happened anywhere. It could have happened in Andover. Lawrence. Methuen. North Andover. Haverhill.

At a movie theater, a school, a church -- places it’s happened before.

This was a terrorist attack combined with a hate crime, as he said. The creep who undertook the murderous rampage apparently had radical Islamic beliefs and suffered from anti-gay bigotry.

Whatever his warped reasons for shooting more than 100 people, killing 49 in cold blood, the question everyone seems to come back to is: How do we keep it from happening again?

We live in a free society. People can believe what they want to believe. For the most part, they can say what they want to say, too. It’s called the First Amendment. They can pray to any god. They can assemble peacefully. They can petition the government for redress.

That’s why, when the FBI questioned this guy, they couldn’t arrest him or detain him. Under current law, you can’t arrest someone just for saying something, unless it’s a threat to do bodily harm. So if this idiot said he supports Islamic extremism, what can the FBI do about it, other than question him and let him go? Which is what they did.

Something with this jerk snapped, though. A week or two before carrying out his heinous crime, he went out and bought an AR-15 and a handgun, something he was allowed to do under the 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

So it’s OK to talk and it’s OK to buy a gun. 

One has to wonder, though, what the founding fathers had in mind when they used the phrase “bear Arms.”

Did they mean it was OK for the average guy to own a muzzle-loading rifle? A flint-lock pistol? That was the prevailing technology at the time. It was necessary for our forefathers to be well-armed because there was another country trying to take us over. If everyone had a gun in their barn, or in the pantry of their farmhouse, it might deter England from launching further invasions. Ultimately, a “well-regulated militia” did, in fact, miraculously, defeat one of the mightiest military powers in the history of the planet at that time.

So, a well-regulated militia, made up of people bearing arms, won the War for Independence. From that, we now have a right for people to own AR-15s. Assault rifles can shoot a lot of bullets in a short amount of time and inflict maximum damage on a lot of people. When the Founding Fathers talked about a “well-regulated militia,” they had in mind that the folks bearing arms would be fighting against another, well-regulated militia - the British Army.

We can’t imagine the Founding Fathers envisioned using arms that can spray dozens of bullets a second against gays and lesbians out for a night of fun and dancing in a peaceful place like Orlando. 

As Pres. Obama said, we as a society have to decide what kind of country we want to live in.  Maybe it’s time we did.

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