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Guns and Commas - Getting The Second Amendment Right
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.
Now, talk among yourselves.
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