A friend asked last night


New member
what I think about the commas in the Second Amendment and how they affect the intent of the writers. Apparently there has been some controversy and claims froom both sides that this is significant. Thanks by the way to the USACarry poster who quotes Richard Henry Lee and provided me an easy example of setting the frame of mind of the writers of the Constitution.

New York Times
OPINION | December 16, 2007
Op-Ed Contributor: Clause and Effect
The best way to make sense of the Second Amendment is to take away all the commas.


My response:


I agree that the prefacing clause "A well-regulated Militia..." has no effect on the remainder of the sentence.

However, English aside, I feel even more strongly that the answer to this question is evident in the situation facing the founding fathers. To me, this establishes intent, motive, goal or whatever, far better than attempting to assess their usage of punctuation 230 years after the fact. Some considerations:

1. Through their writings, it is evident to most people that the men who penned the Constitution and its Amendments understood that there were risks associated with an armed populace. Yet, they felt even more strongly that this was as essential as free speech, freedom of religion, right to due process and so on. One example:

To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them...
-- Richard Henry Lee, 1787

Read the writings of Jefferson, Henry, Franklin, Adams and the rest and it is apparent that they believed strongly that disarming the governed led to tyranny. Further, think for yourself as to whether America would have come into being as a nation if the arsenal concept had been established here. In fact, would the first settlers even have survived if limited to shotguns for hunting?

2. The arsenal system of our former parent country was considered by the Americans (and quite a few Englishmen, Irish and Scots) to be a fundamental part of the method by which the King/aristocracy kept the population in check yet hedged against the possibility that the country might be invaded.

3. The over-whelming majority owned guns (including armed merchant vessels and fortified dwellings with cannons mounted for defense) themselves and would have regarded giving them up as a step towards reducing treasonous statements and the beginnings of rounding up the dissidents. They/we (Americans) still have one of the highest (if not the highest) gun ownership rates of all countries/societies.

4. The mentality of the American population at the time was overwhelmingly that each man is/was responsible for their own actions. Many of us still think that way.

5. The Constitution has a well-defined procedure for making changes and modifications. This process has been tested numerous times and, as it was proven necessary, resulted in changes. Yet, those who oppose the 2A seem to keep insisting that the process cannot be trusted and the courts should step in and reinterpret this without all that rigamarole of constitutional conventions, voting and such. Oddly, they have been saying this for about 4-5 decades. Why is it that ideas whose time has come have no problem completing the change procedure in 3 to 20 years, but this issue cannot be entrusted to the process which gave women the vote, freed the slaves, gave them (former slaves) the vote, acted to eliminate discrimination, etc.?

Anyway, that's what I think about the issue.

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