Journalist Craig R. Whitney spent more than 40 years as a reporter and editor for The New York Times, including several years as Moscow bureau chief and a stint covering the Vietnam War. Whitney’s new book, Living With Guns: A Liberal’s Case for the Second Amendment (Public­Affairs), tries to bridge the partisan divide on gun rights. He argues that the left must learn to live with  America’s gun culture instead of trying to stifle it. We asked Whitney to list three things liberals should under­stand about the Second Amendment.

It did not create a new right. Rather, it recognized and protected the common law right to have and use firearms that already belonged to every free, adult white male in the colonies.

The right the amendment protects was connected with a civic duty. Then it was militia service; now it should be public safety.

Gun control should focus on keeping firearms out of the hands of people who everybody agrees should not have them, rather than taking them from as many people as possible. Significant measures to protect public safety, such as better ways of identifying and treating mentally disturbed people who might turn to violence, could do more to prevent mass shootings than bans on “assault” weapons and large-capacity magazines.