The Second Amendment to the American constitution has probably been discussed more than any other part of the constitution, especially in recent months and years. Every part of the Amendment seems to have been picked clean: what "the people", what "a well regulated militia" means, and even what "bear" means. So it would seem to be impossible to find anything new in their to comment on, and any commentary would just be reigniting already tired arguments.

But one thing that I have yet to find, either in academic discussion, legal findings or the popular debate on the matter, is what "arms" are. All of the discussion about the second amendment seems to be about firearms.

The text of the Second Amendment reads "arms", and while all the debate about the Second Amendment seems to be about firearms, this term would seem to include other types of weaponry. I have heard arguments about the Second Amendment that suggest that the right to bear arms is not unlimited because it could not include the right to have howitzers, fuel air explosives or Californium bullets. But rather than going in that direction, lets go in the other direction: do the "arms" that the Second Amendment refers to include knives, swords, batons, brass knuckles, tasers and pepper spray?

Why this is important is because all of these items are weapons, and all of them have been regulated at the federal, state or local level, and as far as I know, there has never been a Supreme Court case that has ruled on whether or not switchblades are arms. If someone knows of such a case, please alert me! But both the legal debate, and the popular debate about "arms" seems to overlook the fact that many "arms" are already banned or restricted. Imagine the chances that Texas would ever pass a law limiting people's ability to buy or carry semi-automatic rifles. And yet according to Texas law, it is illegal to use a switchblade or brass knuckles. There are a hodge-podge of laws across the country as far as the carrying and collection of bladed and blunt weapons, and it would take someone more knowledgeable than me to sort them out. But the point is, such laws exist without much popular outrage or legal challenge to them.

Historically speaking, I imagine that at the time that the Second Amendment was written, both bladed and blunt weapons would have been an important part of the "arms" that were necessary for both military use and self-defense. In an era of unrifled black powder weapons, knives, daggers and swords would have been important military equipment, as indeed they still are. But to dig too deep into what the authors of constitution meant by "arms" is to indulge in archeology that probably doesn't have a final answer: it is better to just assume that if the Amendment says "arms" it means arms. There is also an argument that some of the weapons listed (pepper spray, automatic knives, tasers) could not have been envisioned with 18th century technology, but then if we follow that line of reasoning, the Second Amendment would only cover black powder muskets.

I can't think of a very good reason why an Amendment that says "arms" should somehow be taken to only cover "firearms". The fact that it is usually taken to only mean this, and that such a gigantic debate can be ignited about certain rights while other rights are perfunctorily ignored, is an example of the blind spots that often come up in debates, not only in spite of, but because of, the attention paid to them.