"What the devil are you reading?" I asked Robinson.

"The Constitution of the United States," he replied. "You never know what you're going to find in it. Listen to this: '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?"

"There is something here that we've all overlooked, which may solve constitutional problems of dealing with handguns. This is the amendment the National Rifle Association always uses to justify the ownership of guns."

"We all know that."

"Let's follow it to its logical conclusion. Anyone who wants a gun can have one. However, the buyer must sign up and be sworn into an organized, well-regulated militia to get his or her weapon."

"But why would we want a well-regulated militia in this day and age? There are no more Redcoats around."

"To fight crime and make the streets safe again," Robinson said excitedly. "Look, we all know there are not enough police to do the job. What we need to protect our citizens are foot soldiers, willing to patrol the streets after dark. People who wish to bear arms should be willing to protect the law-abiding citizens of this country."

"It sounds like you have a plan."

"I do," he replied. "When a person purchases a gun, he is immediately sworn in to his local militia.

"Then the gun owner is given a month's intensive training in the use of arms by qualified members of the National Rifle Association.

"Upon graduation from the course, he or she would join the active militia force in the neighborhood. The unit would be divided into two sections; half patrolling from sundown to sunup on odd nights, and the other half patrolling on even nights of the week. Saturday patrols would be turned over to owners of Saturday night specials."

"How long would they have to stay in the militia?" I asked.

"As long as the person wanted to bear arms. If he or she decided the patrolling was a drag, that person would have to turn in the weapon."

"But wouldn't this constitute a vigilante force which is dangerous in a democratic society?" I asked.

"Not if we abide by the constitutional amendment, as it is written. The key words here are well-regulated. This means that members of the militia would have to answer to the legal authorities for their actions. The militia persons would be subject to military discipline and be required to conform to all the rules and regulations of our armed forces. Although they would not be paid, we would give them ribbons to wear on their chests after a certain number of patrols, and of course PX privileges. To make sure they don't take advantage of their status, they would not be permitted to patrol in areas where they don't reside. We certainly wouldn't want strangers patrolling other people's neighborhoods."

"I can't see the NRA objecting to your plan," I told Robinson.

"No one can object to it. We know the police would welcome the manpower, and the people who own guns would feel they were doing something worthwhile.

"It's a good plan," I said.

"What do you mean 'good'? It's a great plan, and exactly what every founding father who had anything to do with the Constitution had in mind."