While the article is correct in asserting that, until recently, there were few Supreme Court rulings on the Second Amendment, it is also true that those that did occur from time to time all affirmed the Second Amendment as an 'individual right. I know, because I have actually read a history of Second Amendment Supreme Court cases. Clearly this Globe and Mail author has not. In the past two decades there has been a flourishing of legal scholarship on this topic, and it overwhelmingly points to this conclusion.
As a point of perspective, the first ten amendments were proposed and affirmed by the insistence of the Anti-Federalists. By coincidence, I am reading the Anti-Federalist Papers now (as well as watching a series of lectures on DVD about the US constitutional debate). It is clear from these that the primarily motivation of the anti-federalists during the constitutional debate was the protection of individual and states rights against the power of the federal state.
In the aftermath of the American Revolution, the distinction between army and militia couldn’t have been clearer. A militia was a military force NOT in the permanent employ of the state but a group of armed citizens called together by a state government for the common defence. One danger the anti-federalists fretted over was the danger posed by a standing army. That is, a paid professional army, or an army of conscripts. The anti-federalists hated the idea of a standing army. They wanted individuals to keep and bear arms so that they could be formed quickly into a militia when needed.
What people like those quoted in the Globe and Mail article hang their hat on is the fact that opposition to gun control is never mentioned in the constitutional debates. This is true but it is only true in the same sense that gay marriage wasn't mentioned by them. Both concepts were so far beyond their experience that neither occurred to them. The only way that the Globe and Mail author can reach their conclusion is via a selective editing of the historical context. And that's putting it charitably.
The author states:
"The gun-rights movement emerged from the anti-government fringes in the 1960s and ’70s, took over the NRA and raised huge sums to impose its agenda on U.S. lawmakers. And it crept, rather quickly, into mainstream U.S. thought through the Republican Party."
What actually happened was that ordinary Americans became increasingly concerned about historically unprecedented gun control legislation going through Congress (the Gun Control Act of 1968, the McClure-Volkmer Act of 1986, and the Crime Bill of 1994). This stimulated a spontaneous grass-roots backlash that swept through American society from the bottom up. It worked its way up the power structure – from local to state and now to the federal government - in the past three decades. Sounds different when its worded like that, doesn't it?
Contrary to anti-gun propaganda, this movement wasn't led by the NRA. The NRA was a sporting association (formed incidentally by Union officers after the Civil War to promote civilian proficiency in firearms usage to ensure that the US Army will have proficient riflemen in the event of a future mobilization) that was seriously considering giving up all of its political advocacy and retreating to Colorado. It was prevented from doing that by a grass-roots uprising of its members against its leadership. In many key gun control battles over the past decades, the NRA played catch-up as the events on the ground proceeded.
"Then in 2008, in a reversal of all its precedents and a bizarre overturning of mainstream legal and historical scholarship, the Supreme Court ruled that there is indeed an individual right to own weapons (though one with limits). It was a court loaded with extreme-fringe figures, such as the decision’s author Antonin Scalia, appointed by Republican presidents in acts of partisan vengeance."
This statement is practically a blood libel. The Federalist Society, which the late Justice Antonin Scalia was a member of, is an important and influential movement in American legal circles. Its "extreme-fringe" principles: that the Constitution means what it says. That's it. It sounds so simple, but only because the alternate principle - that the constitution can be rewritten by Supreme Court justices to fit the fashion of the times - is so untenable.
In conclusion, this is the sort of smug, no-nothing article that gives the Main Stream Media a bad name.