“A well educated Electorate, being necessary to self-governance in a free State, the right of the people to keep and read Books, shall not be infringed.”

What does this sentence mean? It seems obvious that it doesn’t mean only educated voters have the right to read books. Its pretty clear that it doesn’t mean only agents of the State can read books. It simply means that because literate voters are good for a nation, the people in that nation have the explicit right to own books.

Well, if you buy that parsing of the above sentence then it seems clear there’s only one way to parse the 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.”

Because armed citizens are good for a nation, the people in that nation have the explicit right to own guns. The only question that remains is: with what arms shall I express my right to bear?

(h/t LanguageLog)

6 thoughts on “Grammar”

  1. The “books” example is excellent. Does it cover newspapers? Pamphlets? Magazines? Photographs? Film and audio clips? Scholarly journals? Blogs? RSS feeds? IM Channels? Torrents? A strict interpretation of that language indicates that only human-readable information printed on a vegetable matter substrate is eligible for protection.

    The drafters of the constitution didn’t really envision satellite-guided munitions, remote-op UAVs, and mechanized infantry when they wrote about national security. If we’re to stand against foreign invaders, shouldn’t we at least have assault rifles, anti-vehicle mines, and surface to air missile batteries? Should it be legal to carry a LAW in my passenger seat?

    That said, I don’t think the second amendment should be crossed out. I propose that you carry a 17th century Scottish claymore. As a deterrent, of course.

  2. swong, fine, but its hard to read a so called “collective right” in the 2nd amendment. The amendment *has* to be interpreted as an individual right to have guns (however you define those).

  3. When that amendment was penned, it was feasible to say “We’re being invaded, go round up every able bodied man and we’ll form a fighting force.” The tactical value of a unit of irregular militia wasn’t too far below the value of a regular infantry unit.

    The best an irregular militia can pull off now is to form a pack of insurgents performing hit-and-run harassment attacks on an occupying army. Look at Iraq. Small arms are plentiful there. They have plenty of rifles, mortars, and explosives, but no air power or armor. Our losses are tiny considering that we’re occupying their country and are easily capable of leveling any city over the course of three days. The best they can do is draw us into a battle of political attrition, which they’re doing. That’s not much of a strategy, and it wouldn’t work if they were occupied by the Soviets or the PRC.

    So, I hold that the national security argument is weak.

    That said, I’ve never seen a strong causal or preventative link between guns and crime, so I don’t see a big need to go around stripping rights from people “just ‘coz.” I like the permissive model of society where everything is allowed, with laws setting exceptions.

    And to your “Finland” response to the above paragraph, I counter with “Somalia” and “Pakistan.”

  4. Well, you only consider outside threats. Many gun nuts think they need to own guns to protect themselves from our government. I’m not sure I think they’re nutty on this point.

    But this is beside the point. If you think the second amendment should be repelled repealed because we no longer have a need for an individual right to bear arms, fine. Call the constitutional convention.

    Also, I’m heartened to hear we’re winning in Iraq!

  5. I’m not sure what a gun nut expects to do against their friendly neighborhood SWAT team, much less the FBI, a national guard unit, or the army. If their conflict with the government comes to force, they’ve already lost. A camera and a laptop with a line to the outside are far more potent weapons in that fight.

    I’m all for individual rights to gun ownership, only because I’m against revoking rights as political grandstanding.

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