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Grammar, guns and the Constitution

Let’s hope that as the justices of the Supreme Court consider the language of the Second Amendment in District of Columbia v Heller, they will keep in mind the understanding of English grammar prevalent among the Latinate-minded Founders.

The opening phrase of the amendment, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” is, as Dennis Baron points out, an absolute, a phrase governing the rest of the sentence. Or so Mr. Madison would have understood it. The right to bear arms therefore has a direct connection to the establishment of a militia.

The revolutionary generation distrusted standing armies, which their reading of Roman history warned them could subvert the civilian government, and which their experience with George III taught them that the soldiery could be an instrument of royal tyranny. (Besides, the early national government taxed so lightly, mainly from customs duties, that it lacked the money to fund an army.)

Maintenance of public order depended largely on the militia, and in the colonial and Federal eras, the militia was made up, not of any yahoo who could touch off a flintlock, but of a group of adult male citizens who met more or less regularly for some level of military training.

The militia was an arm of the government, not an independent collection of citizens, as Article 1 of the Constitution indicates by giving Congress the power

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

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 Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress. ...

(The effectiveness of such forces was highly variable. You may recall that the citizen soldiers of the militia crumbled before the British regulars at Bladensburg in 1814, leaving the way open for the occupation of the District of Columbia and the burning of the White House and Capitol.)

Not being learned in the law, I am unable to say whether this constitutional context grants residents of the District of Columbia a right to keep an arsenal of firearms under the bed. It will be interesting to see what the exponents on the court of Original Intent will make of all this.

 

 

Posted by John McIntyre at 11:55 AM | | Comments (29)
        

Comments

That is by far, the worst analysis of the 2nd Amendment I have ever had the displeasure to have ever read. A 4th grade dyslexic might well have done a better job. And you Sir are an assistant managing editor?

Now don't try to sweet-talk me.

Dan O-

Tell us what you really think?

But seriously, perhaps a coherent rebuttal would be more appropriate than a silly insult. What is it that you find incorrect about this argument? It has been made before and more likely captures the original intent of the Framers than most contemporary interpretations. I ask you, Dan O, who the 4th grader really is?

Insult? I protest! That was declaratory. To assume that you believe Dennis Baron's linguistic two step in his "Second Amendment grammar " article is some how more revealing of the nature of Constitutional language than say Justice Kennedy's argument during the oral hearing. To suggest that it is not an individual right is absolute poppycock.

Who are you going to believe Dennis Boron or Lawrence Tribe? Who's the better legal mind?

I believe, after studying a bit of history and law, that the founding fathers had every intent of making sure that the citizens were armed well enough to make sure that an oppresive government would not be tolerated (one of them even believed that the regular citizens, not "militia," should be armed better than the regular army). In many places figures such as Washington and Jefferson talked about the peoples' right to defend liberty. As for the individual vs. milita argument, 10 U.S.C. 311 states that everyone is part of the miltia. The organized militia is comprised of those in the National Guard, the unorganized is everyone else. So, we are all part of the militia and, as such, we all have the right to bear arms to defend our freedom and liberty as well as our lives and homes.

It would be nice not to have words put into my mouth. I did not attempt, or claim to attempt, a complete analysis of the Second Amendment, and I have not said that it excludes an individual right to bear arms.

I merely pointed out that in interpreting the sense of the amendment, what the words mean might be taken into account.

The right to bear arms... It could easily be read as "I have the right to collect as many arms of bears as I can get my hands on."

Now there's a silly reading of the Consititution.

Not appropriate for this blog's discussion, but why are American's so desperate to arm themselves? The fact is that guns kill and the level of gun violence in America is partially related to this almost erotic fixation on bearing arms.

If America focused more of it's resources on solving their own internal problems, the need to bear arms might just disappear.

And perfhaps if guns weren't institutionalized as an inalienable right, maybe impressionable Americans (from the very young to the very disturbed), maybe, just maybe, they wouldn't be so inclined to think guns are fun or a status symbol. Or an answer to life's problems.

Your argument, that the opening phrase determines the entire meaning of the amendment can be disproved by consideration of the following similarly structured phrase:

"A well trained educational staff, being necessary for the literacy of an educated population, the right of the people to own and read books shall not be infringed."

Using your interpretation, the meaning of the above statement is that only (government controlled) educational staffs may own and read books, so that they may teach the general population how to read. However, the average person does not have the right to own the tools of literacy - ie books on which to practice the skill of reading.

The logical fallacy of this argument is that if the general population did not have the ability to own and read books, there would be no way to summon an educational staff from among them. How is it possible for anyone to step up to the task of teaching, if they themselves have never learned the skill to be taught?

If your answer is that the government will provide the training to the teachers it deems worthy of being plucked from the general population and entrusted with the skill, then the question becomes: Who trains the government, and who is the government?

This is a nation where the government IS the people - "OF the people, BY the people, and FOR the people". The skill of reading (or providing armed security) is a skill that MUST be available and practiced by ALL citizens at all times, so that any of them are prepared for the task. To divide use of "the skill" between the government and people is to say that there are two separate entities that make up the country: a government made up of one class of individuals, and ruled subjects of another class.

Even more confusing is the fact that persons move between classes - sometimes as elected officials, sometimes as members of the armed forces, and sometimes as private citizens. Are they to learn and unlearn the skill as they switch between roles?

The simple fact is that the right to own and read books, along with the right to own (keep) and use (bear) arms is one held by ALL the citizens of this country, wheter in active service as part of the government, or as part of the larger general population from which that government is formed.

I apologize for any spelling errors.

Try as I might, passion won out over spell-check...

"American's..." - obviously, not an apostrophe-s, should be "Americans"

"Perfhaps..." Love that random "f"

Not wishing to hog the platform, I'll leave it to another responder to point out the fallacy in b t's argument.

I agree with you that what the words mean should be taken into account.

Concentrating merely on the grammar, and not on any other of the multitude of historical and contextual arguments, the words of the Second Amendment are instructive in the following ways:

1. The Bill of Rights does not grant to the People the right to bear arms -- it recognizes the right that already exists. That is an important distinction and is clear from the language of the amendment.

2. The right is recognized in the People, not the several states, but the People. The lawyers who drafted the constitution would never use the phrase The People to mean something in one area of the Bill of Rights and something else in another area. The People, for example, have the right to assemble.

3. Understanding that the right is not given but merely recognized, and understanding that the right is given specifically to individuals as The People, the militia related "prefatory clause" , common in the era, was just one good reason why the pre-existing right of the People could not be infringed upon.

I suggest you read the opinion of the court and then write a more intelligent editorial.http://www.supremecourtus.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts.html

As for the understanding of the absolute phrase by the founding fathers, unless you understand the usage of the ablative absolute in Latin, I would not talk about it. An ablative absolute relates to the main clause but does not do so in any way explicitly stated. For example, in the sentence "Paupere honeste vivente, fur ditatur", "paupere honeste vivente" is an ablative absolute meaning "the poor man living honestly", while "fur ditantur" means "the thief prospers". Clearly the sentence does not mean "Because the poor man lives honestly, the thief prospers." If Madison had intended to say "Because a well-regulated militia.." he would have just said that. He used an absolute phrase precisely because it does NOT state its relationship to the main clause.

In addition to studying Latin, I suggest you study 18th century English.

"Well-regulated" as used in the amendment meant "well-trained", as Scalia pointed out. Journalists tend to intepret the amendment using the modern bureaucratic definition of "regulate".

The language "KEEP and bear arms" is critical. The use of the word KEEP suggests both an individual right and an interpretation consistent with an informal definition of militia.

Generally, the argument that the amendment defines a "right" to serve in an official state militia as urged by the DC is bizarre. It's like, you have a right to be drafted. Gee thanks.

The concern of the states -- having an armed populace to resist government tyranny -- is as several justices noted at the core of the amendment. That this purpose is not served by something like the National Guard is also incandescently obvious.

Look upon what thou hast wrought, John, and despair. Few phrases can unearth from the hoary depths of the internet such bile as can "second amendment."

But then, that's what you get for expressing a reasonable opinion in a public space. Enjoy!

Personally? I hold that no regulation is reasonable. You tell me I don't need high explosives, or heavy artillery, that I've no use for Mortars and Mines, Missiles or Bombers, and I tend to agree with you. Necessity being the Mother of Invention, if I did need these things badly enough, I'd figure out how to make them. But there is no amount of reasonable regulation as it pertains to firearms (more specifically, guns). Consider this: the Federal Government, and the State Governments lack the means to disarm the people. It isn't too hard to make a weapon out of materials commonly found in any hardware store. The hardest thing to make at home would be the brass shell casings. The only thing the Government can do is inhibit citizens who actually want to abide by the law. They can't stop everyone, though. Besides which, the Founding Fathers clearly felt that the People should be better armed than the standing Army, because in a last resort situation, the People would rise up and overthrow a tyrannical Government. Not to mention all gun laws find their roots in the biggot politicians of the old South who were desperate to keep freed slaves from being armed. They used the very same terrorist tactics and fear mongering modern liberals use to push gun law after gun law on America. When it finally became politically infeasable to keep plainly racist laws on the books, they simply rewrote them in a way that didn't recognize race, while giving a wink and nod that those laws would not be enforced against white people. And they weren't. In one instance, a man of color was charged with, arrested for, convicted of, and sentenced to jail for carrying a concealed weapon in his own bed! Stop pushing the doomsday scenarios about what would happen if naught for your vaunted 'gun laws.' They have done nothing but bring pain and suffering to everyone who abides by them, while bringing safety and security to those who ignore them. In Great Britian, before Guns were banned, when the population was "armed to the teeth," crime was low, people were safe in their own beds at night. Now that they've banned all pistols, and made rifles and shotguns a rarety, you are safer in the Bronx than you are in the majority of Britain. As many as 67% of all home invasions in Great Britain occur while the home is occupied, as opposed to about 9% in America during the same time frame. Why? Because while there are so few guns in Great Britain as to be statistically negligable, about one in five American homes are armed. Anyone up for a game of Russian Roulette?
Try this link...a little more eloquent than I am....it's a two part article, too.

http://www.tysknews.com/Depts/2nd_Amend/flawed1.htm

GLORIA
Do you know that sixty percent of all deaths in America are caused by guns?

ARCHIE
Would it make you feel any better, little girl, if they was pushed out of windows?

It can be made abundantly clear that the first clause of the Second Amendment does *not* "govern" the rest in any way. Simply change the wording, but keep the same grammatical construction. An example:

"Cold Beer, being essential to a balanced diet, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

That first phrase is actually completely irrelevant and the Second Amendment would mean exactly the same thing even if it were deleted entirely.

In short, your analysis can be summed up this way:

EPIC FAIL.

John McIntyre wrote:
"Not appropriate for this blog's discussion, but why are American's so desperate to arm themselves? The fact is that guns kill and the level of gun violence in America is partially related to this almost erotic fixation on bearing arms. If America focused more of it's resources on solving their own internal problems, the need to bear arms might just disappear. And perfhaps if guns weren't institutionalized as an inalienable right, maybe impressionable Americans (from the very young to the very disturbed), maybe, just maybe, they wouldn't be so inclined to think guns are fun or a status symbol. Or an answer to life's problems."

It appears to me that here we have the motivation behind a non-individual-rights interpretation of the 2ndA. If you believe guns are the problem to so many of America's problems and that, if we could just get rid of them (except for military and police types), we could get on with creating our heaven on earth, then naturally you would be inclinced to see anything but an individual right in the 2ndA.

That with rights come responsibilities is widely if not universally accepted. So what is the responsibility that comes with the right to keep and bear arms? It’s in the opening phrase of the Second Amendment. “Owning guns and complaining to your representatives being sufficient to the security of a free state,…” Right? Well that’s what most gun owners seem to think.

For any who wish to take seriously the responsibility that comes with the right to keep and bear arms, I’d like to invite you to explore today’s militia at http://www.awrm.org. We might surprise you, especially if you still believe what the mainstream media and groups like the SPLC say about us.

Peace.

Um, that passage Flick quotes was not something that I wrote, but a comment from a reader of this blog.

Guns don't kill people, grammarians do.

The meaning of the Second Amendment becomes quite clear if one removes the emotional "gun" issue. Let's restate the 2nd in another context:

A well educated electorate, being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and read books, shall not be infringed.

If this were the law, would only educated people have the right to keep books? Or, would only the voting electorate be allowed to read? Of course not. All the people would have the right to keep and read books, and the state would benefit by having a more educated electorate.

There is NO requirement to be a member of a Militia to have the RIGHT to keep and bear arms.

My observations:

1. Guns don't just get up and kill, someone has to employ the weapon.

2. Most people want to keep what they worked so hard for, and they pay accountants and lawyers a lot of money to help them do it.

3. The majority of the wealth in this country is held by a small percentage of the population. They have security, walls, alarms and other methods to protect them.

(I don't drive a Mercedes, but I see more than a few parked in public housing, next to Escalades and BMW's)

5. So, how do the not wealthy, unemployed pay for such things?

6. So,

Contrary to the implication of your post, there is nothing magical or "absolute" (in the common English sense of the word) about an "absolute" (in the linguistic sense of the word) clause. All that word means to a linguist is that the clause in question either lacks a verb or that the verb is in the form of a participle. It doesn't mean the clause has any "absolute" impact on the rest of the sentence, or for that matter, that it relates to the main clause any differently than a non-absolute would. If the preamble of the Second read "given that a well-regulated militia is necessary to the preservation of a free state," we'd still be having the same debate over the interplay between the preamble and the main clause of the Second Amendment, and the same group of politically-motivated linguists would still have filed the same brief to defend the no-rights interpretation of the same. The only difference would be they wouldn't be able to make disingenuous use of the word "absolute" to do it.

Just to clarify my above comment, by my use of the word "disingenuous," I do not wish to impute any improper motives to the linguists who signed their names to the brief, only to the lawyers who submitted it. One of the linguists in question has privately assured me that no trickery was intended, and I see no reason to doubt that. I see equally little reason to extend the same charity toward Thelen, Reid, a firm with a long history of shilling for the gun control cause every which way they can. They were clearly in search of a political result, found a word that means one thing in linguistics and quite another everywhere else, and ran with it. And if this blog post is any indication, it worked.

I appreciate your kindness, Xrlq, in suggesting that I am merely a dupe rather than a falsifier.

A bit over two years ago I examined the Second Amendment, here's my result:

Granted that I’m not an English grammarian by profession, let’s examine the Second Amendment from a grammatical standpoint.

So that we know exactly what we’re examining, here’s the text of the Second Amendment, as passed by Congress and ratified by the 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.”

There are only a couple types of sentences: Simple, Complex, Compound [there are two special cases of Compound called Compound-Complex]{1}.

A *simple sentence*, also called an independent clause, contains a subject and a verb, and it expresses a complete thought.

The Second Amendment is not a “simple sentence”–it contains two clauses.

A *complex sentence* has an independent clause joined by one or more dependent clauses.

Hmmm… looks like that could be it, but before we make the final call, let’s continue looking at the other types of sentences.

A *compound sentence* contains two independent clauses joined by a coordinator. The coordinators are as follows: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so. Except for very short sentences, coordinators are always preceded by a comma.

Nope, doesn’t fit. Let’s examine compound-complex sentences next…

There are two special types of compound sentences. First, rather than joining two simple sentences together, a coordinating conjunction sometimes joins two complex sentences, or one simple sentence and one complex sentence. In eihter case, the sentence is called a *compound-complex* sentence.

Has to have more than one independent clause–that one doesn’t fit. Continuing on…

The second special case involves punctuation. It is possible to join two originally separate sentences into a compound sentence using a semicolon instead of a coordinating conjunction. Usually, a conjunctive adverb like “however” or “consequently” will appear near the beginning of the second part, but it is not required. Also note, in modern English, an em dash (–), which indicates a sudden break in thought–a parenthetical statement like this one–may sometimes be used in place of a semicolon.

Again, it has to have more than one independent clause, and again, the definition doesn’t fit.

The only sentence type that fits the sentence that is the Second Amendment is a “complex” sentence. One independent clause and one or more dependent clauses. Lets now examine the text of the Second Amendment and ensure that is factually correct–that it has only one independent clause and the other clause is a dependent clause.

When looking at the Second Amendment, the phrase beginning with “a well-regulated militia” and ending with “a free State” is an absolute phrase, a.k.a. nominative absolute{2}. A nominative absolute consists of a substantive–a noun or noun substitute–and a participle and has no grammatical connection with the rest of the sentence. The phrase is not an independent clause–a group of related words that makes a complete statement–and does not stand on it’s own. It is a dependent clause.

The phrase beginning with “the right of the people” and ending with “shall not be infringed” is an independent clause and is not grammatically dependent on the preceding nominative absolute phrase in any way. By itself this phrase fulfills the definition of a “simple sentence” above. Again, it is an independent clause.

Yep, the Second Amendment has one independent clause and one dependent clause, the dependent clause being a nominative absolute.

Now that we’ve carefully examined the Second Amendment–as distributed to the states and then ratified by them–and using the definitions above we can see that the Second Amendment is in fact a “complex” sentence. It has one dependent clause and one independent clause.

Here it is again, just to ensure we’re all on the same page: “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.”

We can see that “the right of the People to keep and bear arms” is not dependent on the “well regulated militia”; however, the “well regulated militia” is dependent on the right of the people [remember which words were in which clause–dependent and independent–that’s how you tell what is dependent on what].

The USSC has ruled that every word of the Constitution must be read as being necessary. If the right of the people is not dependent on the militia, then why are the words “well regulated militia” included in the Second Amendment? Those words give ONE of the reasons why the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. Those words also show WHAT type of arms should be specifically protected; the type necessary to a “well regulated militia”.

Now, continuing on, someone might ask, “Why would the framers only include that ONE [Militia] reason for protecting the right to keep and bear arms?” You must remember that the Constitution is a document setting up the framework for the Federal Government–a government that isn’t granted any power [Article 1, section 8] to interfere with the everyday concerns or uses of Arms by its citizens, such as hunting, target shooting, self-defense, etc. The only area of concern for the Federal Government in regards to arms are military uses–and thus the “militia” reference.

The right of the people to keep and bear arms is protected at the Federal level so that there is a pool of already armed citizens that may be called upon to “execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions” [those are the only uses of armed Citizens as a militia the Constitution authorizes Congress or the President].

1. The Structure of a Sentence
http://www.arts.uottawa.ca/writcent/hypergrammar/sntstrct.html
http://eslbee.com/sentences.htm

2. Nominative Absolute
http://englishplus.com/grammar/00000390.htm

Also see:
Sentence Diagrams
by Eugene R. Moutoux
~ One Way of Learning English Grammar ~
Sentences from the United States Constitution
Amendment 2:
http://www.geocities.com/gene_moutoux/diagramamend2.htm

Better to be duped than a duper.

Unless you're duping a duper, making you something of a super-duper.

Granted that I’m not an English grammarian by profession, let’s examine the Second Amendment from a grammatical standpoint.

So that we know exactly what we’re examining, here’s the text of the Second Amendment, as passed by Congress and ratified by the 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.”

There are only a couple types of sentences: Simple, Complex, Compound [there are two special cases of Compound called Compound-Complex]{1}.

A *simple sentence*, also called an independent clause, contains a subject and a verb, and it expresses a complete thought.

The Second Amendment is not a “simple sentence”–it contains two clauses.

A *complex sentence* has an independent clause joined by one or more dependent clauses.

Hmmm… looks like that could be it, but before we make the final call, let’s continue looking at the other types of sentences.

A *compound sentence* contains two independent clauses joined by a coordinator. The coordinators are as follows: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so. Except for very short sentences, coordinators are always preceded by a comma.

Nope, doesn’t fit. Let’s examine compound-complex sentences next…

There are two special types of compound sentences. First, rather than joining two simple sentences together, a coordinating conjunction sometimes joins two complex sentences, or one simple sentence and one complex sentence. In eihter case, the sentence is called a *compound-complex* sentence.

Has to have more than one independent clause–that one doesn’t fit. Continuing on…

The second special case involves punctuation. It is possible to join two originally separate sentences into a compound sentence using a semicolon instead of a coordinating conjunction. Usually, a conjunctive adverb like “however” or “consequently” will appear near the beginning of the second part, but it is not required. Also note, in modern English, an em dash (–), which indicates a sudden break in thought–a parenthetical statement like this one–may sometimes be used in place of a semicolon.

Again, it has to have more than one independent clause, and again, the definition doesn’t fit.

The only sentence type that fits the sentence that is the Second Amendment is a “complex” sentence. One independent clause and one or more dependent clauses. Lets now examine the text of the Second Amendment and ensure that is factually correct–that it has only one independent clause and the other clause is a dependent clause.

When looking at the Second Amendment, the phrase beginning with “a well-regulated militia” and ending with “a free State” is an absolute phrase, a.k.a. nominative absolute{2}. A nominative absolute consists of a substantive–a noun or noun substitute–and a participle and has no grammatical connection with the rest of the sentence. The phrase is not an independent clause–a group of related words that makes a complete statement–and does not stand on it’s own. It is a dependent clause.

The phrase beginning with “the right of the people” and ending with “shall not be infringed” is an independent clause and is not grammatically dependent on the preceding nominative absolute phrase in any way. By itself this phrase fulfills the definition of a “simple sentence” above. Again, it is an independent clause.

Yep, the Second Amendment has one independent clause and one dependent clause, the dependent clause being a nominative absolute.

Now that we’ve carefully examined the Second Amendment–as distributed to the states and then ratified by them–and using the definitions above we can see that the Second Amendment is in fact a “complex” sentence. It has one dependent clause and one independent clause.

Here it is again, just to ensure we’re all on the same page: “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.”

We can see that “the right of the People to keep and bear arms” is not dependent on the “well regulated militia”; however, the “well regulated militia” is dependent on the right of the people [remember which words were in which clause–dependent and independent–that’s how you tell what is dependent on what].

The USSC has ruled that every word of the Constitution must be read as being necessary. If the right of the people is not dependent on the militia, then why are the words “well regulated militia” included in the Second Amendment? Those words give ONE of the reasons why the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. Those words also show WHAT type of arms should be specifically protected; the type necessary to a “well regulated militia”.

Now, continuing on, someone might ask, “Why would the framers only include that ONE [Militia] reason for protecting the right to keep and bear arms?” You must remember that the Constitution is a document setting up the framework for the Federal Government–a government that isn’t granted any power [Article 1, section 8] to interfere with the everyday concerns or uses of Arms by its citizens, such as hunting, target shooting, self-defense, etc. The only area of concern for the Federal Government in regards to arms are military uses–and thus the “militia” reference.

The right of the people to keep and bear arms is protected at the Federal level so that there is a pool of already armed citizens that may be called upon to “execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions” [those are the only uses of armed Citizens as a militia the Constitution authorizes Congress or the President].

1. The Structure of a Sentence
http://www.arts.uottawa.ca/writcent/hypergrammar/sntstrct.html
http://eslbee.com/sentences.htm

2. Nominative Absolute
http://englishplus.com/grammar/00000390.htm

Also see:
Sentence Diagrams
by Eugene R. Moutoux
~ One Way of Learning English Grammar ~
Sentences from the United States Constitution
Amendment 2:
http://www.geocities.com/gene_moutoux/diagramamend2.htm

Bravo, Magus. I believe it was 1993 or earlier when that interpretation was confirmed as correct by a former teacher of Advanced English, who had also been a Senior Editor for Houghton Mifflin. The meaning hasn't changed in 200 years, either.

Mr. McIntyre said, "I did not attempt, or claim to attempt, a complete analysis of the Second Amendment, and I have not said that it excludes an individual right to bear arms." No, but your comment "I am unable to say whether this constitutional context grants residents of the District of Columbia a right to keep an arsenal of firearms under the bed" has a certain snide tone to it. "I don't think I need a gun, so no one else should, either."
It's not about owning an "arsenal," it's about the right to defend oneself. "When seconds count, the police are only minutes away." (I'm not disparaging the police. I'm a cop, and a realist.)

Why do American cities with the most restrictive gun laws still have such high crime rates? "Laws that forbid the carrying of arms...disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed one." -- Thomas Jefferson, quoting Cesare Beccaria's "On Crimes and Punishments"

perhaps apocryphal, Andrew Jackson is purported to have commented on the SCOTUS decision in the Cherokee Cases, "John Marshall has made his ruling, now let him enforce it." The Indian removal went on with the Executive's approval.

The SCOTUS has spoken again, declaring another statutory action as inexcusably at odds with our Federal Constitution. The decision was clear. It left resolution of the problem up to the legislative branch, as I think it should.

The Executive and legislature of our Capital City reacted. "John Marshall has made his ruling, now let him enforce it," echoed another Executive, in actions, if not in words.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at john.mcintyre@baltsun.com.
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