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Handgun ban case boils down to a comma?

Will the determination of whether Washington D.C.’s handgun ban violates the Second Amendment come down to the interpretation of a comma?

Among the plethora of amicus briefs filed last week in the pending Supreme Court case of D.C. v. Heller is one from a group of linguistics and English professors, who say that a comma in the wording of the second Amendment proves that the Constitution’s framers intended for the rule to protect the right of militia members¬† – not non-militia citizens – to bear arms, and therefore the Court of Appeals erred in striking down the law.

According to the 39-page brief, which can be found here on the American Bar Association’s website, the comma in question (the one between “security of a free State” and “the right of the people”) separates an absolute clause from the main clause.

Understand that? Neither do we, but here’s the gist of the professors’ claim: the punctuation in the Second Amendment’s language shows that keeping a well-armed militia was not merely one purpose for the Amendment, it was the purpose for the Amendment. Therefore, the professors argue, banning the possession of handguns for non-militia use is perfectly constitutional and the gun ban should be upheld.

3 comments

  1. And the copious writings of the founders to support this conclusion is…where exactly?

  2. Do those professor’s actually think it is reasonable to assume that -absent the rationale espoused in the prefatory clause -the right MAY BE infringed ?

    The Linguists claim that the existence of the main clause is due solely to the Framers’ belief that “a well regulated Militia is necessary to the security of a free state”.

    But given the context of a Bill of Rights which includes protections of unenumerated rights (9th amendment) is it even remotely reasonable to assume that a right would not be protected but for a particular belief?

    Governments, dear professors, exist to protect rights.

    Rights do not exist merely to secure government.

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