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.