Thursday, August 14, 2014

Re-enacting Reason

The wording of the second Amendment seems curiously liable to ambiguity or imprecision.

"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."

It's that third phrase that's the niggling problem:  "[comma]...the right of the people to keep and bear Arms,..."

The purport of the locution's semantics lends itself to the conclusion that this phrase is meant to modify the first phrase of the sentence -- "A well regulated Militia[comma]..." -- rather than to introduce an additional clause as the object of the verb "[not] infringed".  Again, this does not seem to be clearly and explicitly denoted, but only to be reasonably inferred as the likelier meaning.  If so, it means that this right of the people is defined by "A...Militia" and does not extend beyond it.

Of course, I am only analyzing the logic of the semantics, distinct from what has been gleaned through legal application and interpretation that has occurred over the past two and a quarter centuries.


Bob Smith said...

If it meant what you said, it would have said "the right of the militia" not "the right of the people".

Egghead said...

Hi Hesp,

I just read about this yesterday before I emailed the two 2nd Amendment links to GoV.

One commenter said that the British had disarmed the colonists and would execute colonists found to be bearing arms.

Here is a related essay that I found tonight:

In order to understand the rights described by the founding fathers, one has to understand the tyranny that they faced - and then tried to prevent for future generations.

Fiqh said...

"Militia" in those days simply meant a group of guys from the town that could quickly be alerted to an approaching threat so that they could grab their guns and fend off the attackers. It was just ordinary guys of the town.

In using the term "well regulated," the writers of the document were using the original meaning of the term "regulated," which simply meant "to make regular." In other words, to be functional. ("Regulated" is another term Leftists have hijacked and warped. In other words, back then it didn't mean what it does in a current phrase like "use of this drug is strictly regulated by the FDA."

That introductory clause about the milita is really just a redundant truism. It's like saying: "given that guys need guns in order to have guns,the right to bear arms shall not be infringed."

It would have been helpful if they left that part out, but they had no way of knowing that a century plus later, Leftists would furiously try to exploit that tiny bit of wording in order to do away with the right altogether. (The Constitution pre-dated Leftism.)

Hesperado said...

Bob Smith, you'll have to (if you want to be persuasive, that is) present an argument rather than a bald assertion that takes no account of my argument.

Hesperado said...

Fiqh, your argument may be cogent, but it might need more than a restoration of the proper purport of the word "regulated", including the understanding of what a "militia" was back then. The crux of the dispute, it seems, is whether the supporters of gun rights are reasonably deriving their universal right from that Amendment. It's somewhat analogous to how the Protestant Reformation (or elements thereof) promoted the idea of a "priesthood of all believers" to replace a clergy -- in this case, expanding the meaning of a "militia" to embrace simply every (adult) citizen.

Bob Smith said...

The basic problem with the argument is that the latter clause is independent of the former, linguistically speaking. "Because X therefore Y" is not the same thing as "Y only if X". The 2nd Amendment is a sentence having the first form, which if anti-2A forces were honest they would admit.

It is rather interesting to watch what happens when you lead an anti-gun person down the linguistic analysis path. They will agree with you until you require them to be consistent and apply the same analysis to the 2A, then they will have fits.

Fiqh said...

Are you calling out my sophistry Hesp?
/ :P