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#70512 - 05/18/02 07:06 PM Second Amendment Question
Wordwind Offline
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How do you interpret the Second Amendment?

Here it is:

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.

Is there any way this can be construed to mean that the people have the right to keep and bear arms ONLY if they are members of a militia?

This is being discussed on another board, and I'm curious about how people here would interpret the amendment, the 2nd mentioned in the Bill of Rights.




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#70513 - 05/18/02 07:13 PM Re: Second Amendment Question
Jazzoctopus Offline
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Without commenting politically (ahem) in anyway, I'll just say that I can't figure out if this is a sentence fragment or a run-on.


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#70514 - 05/18/02 07:28 PM Re: Second Amendment Question
Wordwind Offline
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As written, it ain't no sentence fragment. It appears to need a conjunction of some kind. As written, it appears that the militia is the subject of the sentence and shall not be infringed is the verb. The stuff in the middle modifies the subject and verb, but that stuff needs a bit of tweaking. I copied it off a site, so it may not be correctly copied.


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#70515 - 05/18/02 07:30 PM Re: Second Amendment Question
Wordwind Offline
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You could also say that the problem is a comma splice if the subject had been intended to be "right" and the verb "shall not be infringed" with all the stuff at the beginning making up the modifiers. If that were the case, I'd advise losing the comma between "the right of the people to bear arms" and "shall not be infringed.

If this is actually how the sentence originally appears, then I would say poor sentence construction has really led to a lot of different interpretations of the meaning.


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#70516 - 05/18/02 07:49 PM Re: Second Amendment Question
Jazzoctopus Offline
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Registered: 07/03/00
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Maybe it's intended to be read:

A well regulated Milita (the right of the people to keep and bear Arms being necessary to the security of a free State) shall not be infringed.

Course, that doesn't clear it up too much then does it?

Maybe Madison phrased it that way as joke, knowing it would spark a big debate.


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#70517 - 05/18/02 08:02 PM Re: Second Amendment Question
maverick Offline
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I. Text of the Second Amendment and Related Contemporaneous Provisions
Second Amendment: 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.
English Bill of Rights: That the subjects which are protestants may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law (1689). 1
Connecticut: Every citizen has a right to bear arms in defense of himself and the state (1818). 2
Kentucky: [T]he right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State shall not be questioned (1792). 3
Massachusetts: The people have a right to keep and to bear arms for the common defence (1780). 4
North Carolina: [T]he people have a right to bear arms, for the defence of the State; and, as standing armies, in time of peace, are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; and that the military should be kept under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power (1776). 5
Pennsylvania: That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the state; and as standing armies in the time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; And that the military should be kept under strict subordination, to, and governed by, the civil power (1776). 6
The right of the citizens to bear arms in defence of themselves and the State shall not be questioned (1790). 7
Rhode Island: The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed (1842). 8
Tennessee: [T]he freemen of this State have a right to keep and bear arms for their common defence (1796). 9
Vermont: [T]he people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the State -- and as standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; and that the military should be kept under strict subordination to and governed by the civil power (1777). 10
Virginia: That a well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power. 11

From ‘Sources on the 2nd Amendment’: http://www.law.ucla.edu/faculty/volokh/2amteach\sources.htm#TOC1


My personal guess is that this may be parsed as follows:

[Since] A well regulated Militia [is clearly] necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.

~ tho’ ultimately (like Humpty says) the darn words will be taken to mean what the gun totin’ redknecks want to understand by ‘em!



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#70518 - 05/18/02 08:06 PM Re: Second Amendment Question
milum Offline
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Registered: 09/03/01
Posts: 872
Loc: Birmingham, Alabama
May God save us from the Comet and ourselves if the straightforward wording of the second amendment confuses us, whereas even the Good Lord might have trouble with the tangled wordings of the congress of today.

A well regulated Militia,... - What is a Militia ?
It's not a standing army or even so much as a National Guard, but a pool of men - citizens, who can be
called upon during times of outside aggression to defend
the free state, assuming they have arms.

...being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Wanna quibble?



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#70519 - 05/18/02 08:44 PM Re: Second Amendment Question
Wordwind Offline
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Just for the record, I pose the question of reading this amendment because the sentence structure is awkward to my ear--not for the political discussions that have been discouraged by the board. Again, just for the record.

This amendment fascinates me as written, and apparently the site I pasted it from had it right.


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#70520 - 05/18/02 08:57 PM Re: Second Amendment Question
milum Offline
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Registered: 09/03/01
Posts: 872
Loc: Birmingham, Alabama
Hmmmmm? Are questions of semantics on this board considered political?
If so by whom?


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#70521 - 05/18/02 09:12 PM Re: Second Amendment Question
Wordwind Offline
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Registered: 09/30/01
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Nope, I didn't mean that considerations of semantics would be considered political. I just wanted to say that I've brought up the Second Amendment strictly as a study in sentence structure.

"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. "


Let's pull out:

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

...and take a good look at it. The comma doesn't belong there. Period. That is if right is the subject and infringed is functioning as the verb in agreement with right.

You can argue that the comma separates the subject and verb here so the reader can take a breath, but it's still a comma splice by modern standards. I don't know 18th century standards for placement of commas--maybe they were more generous with commas back then. But today, you'd get a mark off for placing the comma there.

Take the comma out of there, the meaning is crystal clear and beyond debate.

On the other board, the members on the music board are arguing whether the militia is the point or not. I don't think so. I think the point in the sentence, comma splice or not, is the right to keep and bear arms with one of the reasons--and not necessarily the exclusive reason--being the ability to form a militia.


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