Every so often one reads a letter or a column containing sincere, if somewhat one-sided, arguments for stronger legal restrictions on the sale and possession of firearms.

One such column, printed here last month, allowed as how the writer could grudgingly grant permission for Americans to own guns for “hunting, target shooting or a legitimate sporting event.”

But for self-defense? Hey, nobody needs that. Oh, except for “bank guards, law enforcement officers and the military.”

In a country where guns are present on every page in our history books, and today remain commonplace possessions (about 25 percent of Americans own guns, and about 50 percent of us live in households with firearms), this is a remarkably restrictive — and highly unrealistic — expectation.

But then the author said something that deserves direct challenge: Quoting the introductory clause to the Second Amendment, he wrote, “What a well regulated militia meant in 18th century colonial America, and what it means in the 21st century, is still debated in the courts.”

Well, if by that he meant that recent court decisions left open some questions about the legal conditions that can be placed on firearm ownership, he’s right.

But if he meant that there was some doubt about the fact that the right to own firearms is a “right of the people” protected by the Bill of Rights, just the same as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, trial by jury and all the rest, he couldn’t be more wrong.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in two related decisions, D.C. v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago, established that individual adult Americans have the right to acquire and possess firearms unless a clear public purpose exists for the denial of that right — such as being mentally ill or a convicted felon.

Some people think the number of crimes committed with firearms would plummet if laws could be passed preventing the average person from owning them.

Unfortunately for their case, they seem not to be aware that, even after the Supreme Court cases cited above, there continue to be jurisdictions where average people can’t own them — including New York City, Chicago and the District of Columbia.

And those jurisdictions are the places where the rate of violent crimes involving guns are among the highest in the nation.

While Americans shuddered in horror at mass shootings in such places as Aurora, Colo., (in a theater where guns were supposedly “banned”), the city of Chicago, with no publicity whatsoever, endures the death rate of Aurora every 10 days.

The vast majority of those crimes are carried out by members of urban gangs, and almost always involve illegally procured weapons.

If all the laws those cities now have can’t keep guns from being used by criminals, what do they accomplish?

The answer is simple. They keep guns out of the hands of law-abiding people who would otherwise have them available for their own protection.

Court suits against those jurisdictions based on the Supreme Court’s rulings are advancing, so things may change there.

But there has been a change brought about in the nation’s gun-buying habits that’s worth mentioning.

Sales of firearms have been skyrocketing in recent years, making gun manufacturing one of the few bright spots in a generally bleak economy.

And guess who’s getting the credit? The man some people label “the greatest gun salesman of all time” — President Obama.

As the story goes, Americans have been buying guns at record rates since Obama’s election because they have feared his administration might pass new restrictions on them.

Well, it hasn’t. In fact, the trend has been the other way. The number of states permitting the concealed carry of firearms has risen steadily over the years, starting long before the Supreme Court’s rulings. There is only one state left — Illinois — where some form of carry permit is not available.

And the surge in firearm sales (as tracked by the rise in background checks required before purchases can be finalized by dealers) has been rising right along with the concealed-carry trend.

From 2002 to 2011, reported columnist Frank Miniter in the Aug. 23 issue of Forbes, the number of checks rose by 54.1 percent, with the percentage of women gun owners rising from 13 percent in 2005 to 23 percent today.

Miniter notes there has been growth in a variety of forms of competitive shooting and, more surprisingly, in hunting.

After a decades-long decline, hunting appears to be on an uptick (licenses are up 9 percent since 2006, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports).

Americans aren’t buying more guns because they fear Obama’s animus (or at least not exclusively).

They’re buying them because their newly affirmed freedom to “keep and bear arms” has become widely accepted and approved by them.

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a free-lance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]