Second Amendment grammar -- the Framers parsed it one way, but will the Supreme Court agree with their analysis?

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Mon Mar 17 15:56:12 UTC 2008

Aside from grammar, the semantics of "people" at
the time of the writing of the Constitution would
also indicate the Framers meant a collective
entity, thus the militia, rather than
individuals.  It will be interesting to see if
the plaintiffs (the District of Columbia) make
this argument, and whether the strict
constructionists on the court --e.g., Scalia --
strictly follow their principles and agree.


At 3/16/2008 09:45 PM, Dennis Baron wrote:
>There's a new post on the Web of Language --
>Second Amendment grammar -- the Framers parsed it one way, but will
>the Supreme Court agree with their analysis?
>The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments this week in a case
>that could decide whether the Second Amendment ­ the one about the
>right to bear arms ­ permits or prohibits gun control.
>In 2003, Dick Heller and five other plaintiffs challenged Washington,
>D.C.’s, tough gun control law, claiming that its ban on handguns
>violated their Second Amendment right to tote a gun. Last Spring, the
>U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld
>Heller’s claim. The Supreme Court then agreed to hear D.C’s appeal of
>the Heller case.
>The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states,
>     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.
>One of the points at issue in the Heller case is whether the right to
>bear arms is related directly to service in a militia, or whether
>it’s an individual right conferred on every American. Opponents of
>gun control favor an individual rights reading, ignoring or
>minimizing the militia’s presence in the Second Amendment.
>But according to the grammar lessons that the Framers would have
>learned, the sentence structure of the Second Amendment binds the
>right to bear arms to service in the militia.
>Want to know more about guns and grammar?  Read the rest at the Web
>of Language
>Dennis Baron
>Professor of English and Linguistics
>Department of English
>University of Illinois
>608 S. Wright St.
>Urbana, IL 61801
>office: 217-244-0568
>fax: 217-333-4321
>read the Web of Language:
>The American Dialect Society -

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