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Occulus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 05:31 PM
Original message
What IS the Second Amendment?
Edited on Mon Oct-09-06 05:41 PM by kgfnally
I ask this question because Wikipedia claims the following:

The Second Amendment, as passed by the House and Senate and later ratified by the States, reads:

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 hand-written copy of the Bill of Rights which hangs in the National Archives had slightly different capitalization and punctuation inserted by William Lambert, the scribe who prepared it. This copy reads:

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.

Both versions are commonly used by "official" Government publications.


So which one is correct? I ask because the grammar drastically alters the meaning.

This is direct evidence that people not knowing how to use the English language properly can SERIOUSLY screw things up for everyone else, and that the effects of not knowing how to properly use English grammar can be profound indeed. The grammar in the original, RATIFIED Amendment is very precise and, as it is written, self-limiting toward the supposedly limitless "right" to own a gun OF ANY KIND.

Let's look at the first example:

"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 implication here is that those owning a firearm- the right to bear arms- was instituted in order to guarantee the existence of a well-regulated militia. The grammar is clear: the intent here, clearly and without the necessity of debate, is to guarantee the existence of a well-regulated militia. It would stand to reason that the ownership of a firearm ought to be contingent upon membership in that militia. This is implied, but not denoted; nonetheless, the intent is clear: the bearing of arms is necessary for the existence of a well-regulated militia, but there is NO mention of the unrestricted ownership of arms; in fact, restricted ownership is directly implied by the Second Amendment with the above punctuation.

Now, let us examine the other given example:

"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 above quote makes no actual grammatical sense. These are sentence fragments, isolated by commas; they make no sense on their own except when viewed through the filter of unrestricted gun ownership. Let me say that even more clearly:

The above quote, with the punctuation as stated, makes no grammatical sense.

THIS part does:

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,"

But should be followed by a word such as should, will, shall, must, shall not, will not, etc. The words that follow make no sense, period. Here's the following words:

"the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. "

Senseless, grammatically speaking. There is no real meaning in the above 'phrase'. In fact, it's not even a phrase, but is in fact a couple sentence fragments glued together with a comma.

Since most Americans are NOT savvy regarding their OWN language (loose! car's! sence!), it comes as no surprise that this Amendment is misunderstood. However, the additional commas make the Amendment actually senseless. This is why people think EVERYONE has the right to own a gun. The grammatically correct version of the Second proves that this is simply not the case: only CERTAIN PEOPLE, per the Second, are allowed to own a gun... and those are the various members of the state militias, AND NO ONE ELSE.

The first quote without the additional commas DOES make sense. Perfect, irrefutable sense. It refutes the unlimited ownership attitude some of us have. And, it's the correct interpretation, IMO.

So, let's see which version the NRA quotes on its webpage (I've never been there before now; I'm assuming they do...)...

Failure ensues. "second amendment +text" using the NRA website's own search engine yields ZERO results.

I am Joe's complete lack of surprise. Nonetheless, I have to ask myself whether gun manufacturers, like tobacco companies, have perverted their right into something rather less than what it should be. In the end, I must ask myself:

Which version of the Second is correct and, if the former definition is, given above, why aren't we following that more strictly than we are?

Clearly, it is possible that not everyone deserves to own a gun, but only members of their state's militia, and that per the Second itself. Why have we become erroneously convinced that things are different?

Who decided militia membership is not a factor in owning a gun? Because, to me, the Second says something much different.




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Occulus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 05:41 PM
Response to Original message
1. .
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rug Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 05:43 PM
Response to Original message
2. A blunt writ of habeas corpus.
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Mojambo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 05:44 PM
Response to Original message
3. The right to "bear" arms
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onenote Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 05:49 PM
Response to Original message
4. UNITED STATES V. MILLER, 307 U.S. 174
This is probably the most oft-cited SCOTUS opinion on the Second Amendment. It generally is regarded as establishing that the Second Amendment does not guarantees individuals the right to keep and bear a firearm that does not have "some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia. What remains unclear is the meaning of a "militia".
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Hosnon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 05:54 PM
Response to Reply #4
7. That makes the most sense to me. It would be absurd to create a militia
Edited on Mon Oct-09-06 05:55 PM by MJDuncan1982
to counter the military might of the federal government where the arms are held by that government. Perhaps the arms could be held by the state governments but the concept of the Citizen-Soldier was pretty big back then.

Given the choice between: 1) Federal government holding arms, 2) State governments holding arms or 3) Individuals holding arms, I'm going to go with 3.

However, I do think the arms allowed must be militia-like...whatever that means, as you said. I know that an atomic bomb would not be in that category but I don't want to attempt to draw the line.
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sandnsea Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 06:42 PM
Response to Reply #7
11. The Guard think they're the militia
"The National Guard, the oldest component of the Armed Forces of the United States and one of the nation's longest-enduring institutions, celebrated its 369th birthday on December 13, 2005. The National Guard traces its history back to the earliest English colonies in North America. Responsible for their own defense, the colonists drew on English military tradition and organized their able-bodied male citizens into militias.

The colonial militias protected their fellow citizens from Indian attack, foreign invaders, and later helped to win the Revolutionary War. Following independence, the authors of the Constitution empowered Congress to "provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia." However, recognizing the militia's state role, the Founding Fathers reserved the appointment of officers and training of the militia to the states."

http://www.ngb.army.mil/About/default.aspx
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spoony Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 05:49 PM
Response to Original message
5. The words of the founders
Edited on Mon Oct-09-06 05:50 PM by spoony
seem to trump your clever, but speculatory, grammatical analysis.

"No freeman shall ever be debarred the use of arms." Thomas Jefferson 1776
"Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves?" Tenche Coxe 1788
"I ask, who are the militia? They consist of now of the whole people." George Mason 1788

Those last two are from the Virginia Constitutional Convention. There aren't really any examples on the other side, to support the idea that they considered the right exclusive to government militias.

Check out guncite.com; it contains a very thorough examination of the second amendment.
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rock Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 05:52 PM
Response to Original message
6. Commas used be restrictive
and now are not. But that's besides the point. It doesn't matter what the implication is, it doesn't say on condition blah blah blah you can have guns, it says you can have guns.
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sarge43 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 06:37 PM
Response to Reply #6
10. Two historical facts
1. The Founders were English in outlook, education and background. They feared in their bones a large standing army. At best they would tolerate a very small cadre of professional career types around whom a larger army could form, if needed. Therefore, an armed militia on standby.

2. Unlike Europeans of the time the US citizens were already armed, especially in the rural areas which were the bulk of the US at the time and on the fronter. The Founders had three choices - forbid an armed citizenry, impractical and impossible to enforce, ignore it or make a virtue out of a potential vice, re #1.
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DTinAZ Donating Member (325 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 06:30 PM
Response to Original message
8. good luck with this...
Edited on Mon Oct-09-06 06:35 PM by DTinAZ
the "comma controversy" may or may not be easy to resolve...here are a few links (not necessarily representing my opinion). From the following page:

http://dictionary.laborlawtalk.com/Second_Amendment_to_...

The exact punctuation of the Second Amendment is sometimes debated. At the time of the drafting of the Constitution and the Second Amendment the rules of punctuation were loose and varied by author, not considered as meaningful as modern usage of punctuation is today. This lack of importance attached to punctuation often leads to various mis-interpretations when readers try to attribute meaning to the placement of the commas in the original text of the Second Amendment.


another:

http://www.calltodecision.com/2ndAmendWordGames.htm

As for stuff on the NRA site, there's lots there...you just need to use different search strategies. For example, if you use "keep and bear arms" (without the quotes) in their own Search box, you'll come up with hundreds of hits, including huge PDF documents describing their opinions on this. If you do a Google site search on "well-regulated militia" (site:www.nra.org "well-regulated Militia"), you'll get only two hits, one to this speech:

http://www.nra.org/speech.aspx?id=6025

and one of which is the actual home page, where the text doesn't appear. However, their website "banner graphic" *used* to contain the following text:

THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS, SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED.

which, by itself, is rather nonsensical.

BTW, if you're going to get involved in punctuation and grammar, you *might* want to carefully go over your own original post (unless the editing period has expired) and clean it up a bit....there are some errors....and you know...."glass houses" and all... :-)

DT
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BlooInBloo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 06:32 PM
Response to Original message
9. The one with all the commas (the 2nd in the gray box) don't make no sense.
The first is what I have in mind when I think of "the 2nd amendment".
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MGD Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 06:42 PM
Response to Original message
12. "the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed".
Regardless of the preceding commas, this statement doesn't leave a lot of room for maneuver. Good luck with your counter productive BS though.
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slackmaster Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 06:55 PM
Response to Original message
13. Second Amendment restricts the power of the federal government
Edited on Mon Oct-09-06 07:08 PM by slackmaster
Specifically, it prohibits lawmaking or executive orders that would inhibit the ability of the states to maintain effective defense forces. That's really all it was intended to do.

Clearly, it is possible that not everyone deserves to own a gun, but only members of their state's militia, and that per the Second itself.

That is an illogical interpretation, utter nonsense IMO. The Second Amendment says nothing at all about non-militia gun ownership. It's not about what the people can or cannot do; it says only what the federal government cannot do.

Who decided militia membership is not a factor in owning a gun?

Who decided that it was a factor? People have owned guns privately for hunting and self-defense and sporting purposes since long before there was a United States of America. Besides, your argument is largely moot because most of us are members of a state militia anyway. Here is California's definition:

MILITARY AND VETERANS CODE
SECTION 120-130

120. The militia of the State shall consist of the National Guard,
State Military Reserve and the Naval Militia--which constitute the
active militia --and the unorganized militia.

121. The unorganized militia consists of all persons liable to
service in the militia, but not members of the National Guard or the
Naval Militia.

122. The militia of the State consists of all able-bodied male
citizens and all other able-bodied males who have declared their
intention to become citizens of the United States, who are between
the ages of eighteen and forty-five, and who are residents of the
State, and of such other persons as may upon their own application be
enlisted or commissioned therein pursuant to the provisions of this
division, subject, however, to such exemptions as now exist or may be
hereafter created by the laws of the United States or of this State....


Source:http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=m...

Here is the federal counterpart:

Section 311. Militia: composition and classes

(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied
males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section
313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a
declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States
and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the
National Guard.
(b) The classes of the militia are -
(1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard
and the Naval Militia; and
(2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of
the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the
Naval Militia....


Source: http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/ts_search.pl?titl...

One could reasonably make an argument that the age and gender limits are unconstitutional. The militia is the body of the people. This will become more apparent next time California experiences a natural disaster, and Governator orders members of the unorganized militia to help with rescue and repair efforts. People who don't comply with his orders can be prosecuted.

Because, to me, the Second says something much different.

You've interpreted the relationship between government and the governed bass-ackwards. That which is not specifically prohibited is allowed. Like the other amendments that make up the Bill of Rights, the Second denies powers to the government. The pre-existing right of free people to say, own, or do as they please, except that which has been explicitly prohibited by due process of law, was then and is still assumed to be the case.
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