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Guns and Commas - Getting The Second Amendment Right

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A recent Lawrence Journal-World article, "National group seeks repeal of ‘Stand Your Ground’ law in Kansas," brought about many comments regarding the Second Amendment to the United States' Constitution. There appears to be two prominent, and distinct, interpretations to "Article The Fourth" (aka: Amendment the Second in The Bill of Rights).

Some interpret the amendment as a clear right for citizens and states to form and maintain a militia (a body of citizens organized for military service). Further, this school of thought allows for members, and only the members, of a duly formed militia to own weapons that are necessary for service in the militia.

Others interpret the second amendment as a clear right for militias to be formed and armed. Further, this school believes that individuals outside of the militia (read as "any and all citizens") also have the right to bear arms.

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.

The reason for this difference in interpretations is two-fold. First, ideology causes many to forgo logic, state their biased preference, and then document their foregone conclusion. Second, some fail to apply the rules of punctuation to the amendment. And, simply put, one punctuation mark - and its proper application - resolves the issue of gun ownership rights and gun control. That punctuation mark is the comma.

A comma is a "a punctuation mark, used especially as a mark of separation within the sentence." There are at least 21 rules that govern the use of commas. Two of these rules can be applied to the sentence structure of the second amendment. Why these two? Simply because the other 19 rules can be eliminated as non-applicable.

The first comma, and a dual-purpose second comma, separates the non-essential clause "being necessary to the security of a free State." This is considered non-essential since the first statement, "A well regulated Militia," is sufficiently identified. In other words, the separated non-essential clause could be eliminated without changing the meaning of the statement - it only defines or explains the subject.

The second comma, although lending support to separating the non-essential clause, has now become the dreaded "comma splice" that is used in place of the conjunction "and." If not for the need of the comma to help separate the non-essential clause, the word "and" could have been used. How do we know that the second comma has the power of "and?" Simply remove the explanatory non-essential clause. What is left is this:

A well regulated Militia, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

After removing the non-essential clause it is easy to see that the remaining comma must have the power of "and" for no other word or interpretation would make sense. For example, "A well regulated Militia (of/or/but) the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed," is nonsensical. Yet, "A well regulated Militia and the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed," makes grammatical sense.

A well regulated Militia and the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

That's all I have to say 'bout that.

Now, talk among yourselves.



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Comments

rockwell 2 years, 1 month ago

Another way to rewrite the sentence consistent with its current structure and content but with more modern punctuation is: "Because a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

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RoeDapple 2 years, 1 month ago

"The Second Amendment (Amendment II) to the United States Constitution is the part of the United States Bill of Rights that protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms. It was adopted on December 15, 1791, along with the rest of the Bill of Rights.

In 2008 and 2010, the Supreme Court issued two Second Amendment decisions. In District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), the Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to possess a firearm, unconnected to service in a militia and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. In dicta, the Court listed many longstanding prohibitions and restrictions on firearms possession as being consistent with the Second Amendment. In McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 3025 (2010), the Court ruled that the Second Amendment limits state and local governments to the same extent that it limits the federal government."

(Wiki)

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Liberty275 2 years, 1 month ago

Thanks for the grammar lesson. How you people remember all that stuff is beyond me.

As for the second amendment, I think civilians should be able to own any weapon employed by the police, and any weapon used by the military if they can pass severe backgound checks, show adequate security and can prove a genuine use for the item (such as a school where yahoos get to pop off a few hundred .50 cal rounds at a mountain for $5000). We routinely allow and expect private entities to use high explosives to take down buildings and mine our electricity, so in some form even the most extreme conventional weapon we have is available to responsible people.

That's mostly the status quo as I see it.

I think an exception would be any NBC weapons. Those shouldn't be in anyone's hands, but if we have to have them, they should be controlled by the president and nobody else if for no reason other than secrecy.

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Willbill 2 years, 1 month ago

The Second amendment speaks of two separate groups the Militia and the People. If the right to keep and bear arms were meant ONLY to apply to the militia it would read “The right of Militia members to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Or, it would read “The power of the States to maintain armed militias shall not be infringed.” It reads “The right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” It calls for a “Well-regulated Militia” and not a well regulated populous, and all other references to “The People” in the Bill of Rights are also rights of individual citizens.

See also: DC v. Heller Held: 1. The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. Pp. 2–53. (a) The Amendment’s prefatory clause announces a purpose, but does not limit or expand the scope of the second part, the operative clause. The operative clause’s text and history demonstrate that it connotes an individual right to keep and bear arms. Pp. 2–22. http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/07-290.ZS.html

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Jim Phillips 2 years, 1 month ago

And, when one considers that the Constitution was ratified in 1788 and the Militia Act was not passed until 1792, it is a bit hard to rationalize that Amendment 2 was geared for a full time militia.

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Katara 2 years, 1 month ago

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.

The comma could also be a substitute for the phrase "which encompasses". So the sentence would look like, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State (which encompasses) the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The dependent clause, "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms", is describing something that defines a free State and what is "necessary to the security of a free State" is a well regulated Militia.

It really seems to me that there are two separate thoughts occurring in that sentence.

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Katara 2 years, 1 month ago

"the right of the people to keep and bear Arms" is a dependent clause.

You are focusing too much on the punctuation rather than the sentence structure.

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tbaker 2 years, 1 month ago

Ideology causes people to forego logic? Indeed.

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optimist 2 years, 1 month ago

I also extend that the word regulated has multiple meanings. I find it unlikely that the founders in writing the Bill of Rights used the word regulated with the intent to limit the rights of the individual in favor of the Government. That completely contradicts its intent.

Here are two meanings that I believe may have some reference to the original intent of the word regulated: 1. to adjust so as to ensure accuracy of operation: to regulate a watch, 2. to put in good order.

At the time a standing national military didn’t exist, the country relied on the civilian populous to take up their private arms in defense of the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic, including our own Government. As such the militia would clearly refer to the citizen soldier and the word regulated defined the reason for protecting the individual’s right to bear arms, to ensure that they could remain sharp and equipped to establish an organized militia when called upon.

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Gwtr 2 years, 1 month ago

Congressional Statutes at Large, Vol. 1, Page 97 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.

Q = A free State? Free from what?


Seldom mentioned and rarely elaborated upon is the following:

The First 10 Amendments to the Constitution as Ratified by the States December 15, 1791 PREAMBLE Congress OF THE United States. "THE Conventions of a number of the States having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best insure the beneficent ends of its institution.."

Perhaps the author might be among the few to do so.

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RoeDapple 2 years, 1 month ago

If we are going to pick apart each word and the "true" or alternate" meaning thereof shouldn't we be doing so from "A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language", Noah Webster's first dictionary. Sure it was printed 30 years later, but language didn't change in meaning quite so rapidly back then.

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Gwtr 2 years, 1 month ago

Why in the world would those who wrote and ratified this Amendment specify a well regulated Militia to be necessary to the security of a free State? A State free from what? A State free of the threat posed, should those in the newly-formed federal government raise a standing army and seek to militarily enforce its will on the States? A State free of the threat of a military overthrow of the civilian controlled federal government should a standing army be raised, or a military overthrow of the civilian government by a Militia of a State?

And what about specifying it to be a "right" of the people to keep and bear arms? Whom among the people at this period in history were not already armed?

What protection did the people have that, after the fashioning and implementing of the new federal government, that those in it wouldn't simply enact a law making it illegal for the freemen among the people to keep and bear their own arms, and then raise a standing army in order to enforce it? Absurd you say? Wasn’t an entire war with the most powerful army in existence just recently brought to a halt, formally sparked by an attempt to seize the colonist’s arms?

Could it be that in addition to the statement of common knowledge that a well regulated Militia was necessary to the security of a free State…the IIA was written as a ‘further declaratory and restrictive clause’ specifying it to be a “right” of the people -- all freemen -- to keep and bear arms? As a law written for the specific purpose of preventing abuse of those few powers afforded to the federal government? That is, a law specifying in no uncertain terms this particular "right" shall not be infringed?

What? A Law declaring a specific “right” and limiting powers of the federal government to the extent that said “right” shall not be infringed? What? The IIA a law written against government? What in the world were they thinking?

And how has this law been honored as such over the many years by those it was written against? Just asking.

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