Friday, February 22, 2013

Grammar Granny

A brief trip through a bit of the United States Constitution...

Article I, section 8:

The Congress shall have Power

[... list truncated for space ...]

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;


To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repeal [sic] Invasions;

Amendment II

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 examine this language carefully. 
The congress is granted the power to create armies, a navy, and call upon "the militia".  What then, is the definition of "the militia"?  According to Webster,

a:  a part of the organized armed forces of a country liable to call only in emergency
b:  a body of citizens organized for military service
the whole body of able-bodied male citizens declared by law as being subject to call to military service

The 2nd Amendment states in its first noun phrase, "A well regulated militia". This is not, however, the primary subject in the clause.

Subsequently, the second phrase adjectively qualifies the first phrase as "being necessary to the security of a free state".  The first comma (between these phrases) appears to be completely superfluous.  Its absence would not change the meaning in any way.  Having a militia is deemed important to protecting the integrity of "the state" - which one can readily take to mean the country as a whole.

The third phrase (which is the second noun phrase), "the right of the people to keep and bear arms", presents itself strongly as the primary subjective material of the complete clause.

The fourth phrase, "shall not be infringed", is the predicate for the subject (in the third phrase).  Its separation from the third phrase by a comma also appears to be superfluous.

With the corrected punctuation, having no effect on the statement of the clause, we have the following:
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.

With that we can see more clearly the intent in the clause:
Because a militia affords necessary protection to the country, the people's right to own and possess arms cannot be curtailed.
Or in other words, to be able to have a militia, you really can't disarm the general population, and it's not lawful to do so through legal machinations or otherwise.

Furthermore, the use of the term "right" implies an inherent existence of the assertion;  it is not granted by authority nor descended from legislation or privilege.  It exists and stands axiomatically on its own, as an fundamental fact of human existence.

So, in my opinion, that would make the gun-grabber crowd to be a bunch of screaming idiots.

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