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The Second Amendment

By John Phillips on June 05, 2018

The Second Amendment is one hell of a sentence. It reads, in its entirety:

“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.”

Both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are full of this kind of writing. The rules for comma usage were less precise at the time. A comma meant, “pause here, please.” The capitalization is baroque, too. The nouns “Militia,” “State” and “Arms” are capitalized, but “people” is lowercase.

Nowadays, this wouldn’t make it past a copyeditor. The use of commas is just odd. More problematically, the connection between the clauses is unclear. What is the relationship between the well-regulated militia, the free state, and the right of the people to bear arms?

One reading is that the two clauses are unrelated. That there are two unrelated... continue reading