Posts Tagged ‘james madison’

The meaning of the Second Amendment becomes clear and obvious when you become familiar with a little bit of grammatical history. At the time of the writing of the Bill of Rights, there was a rather common abuse of the use of the comma by people who were not strict followers of proper grammar. (I know, it sounds silly, but go look it up yourself)

Bill of RightsThe version of the Bill of Rights that was published for re-distribution included three commas in the text, splitting the amendment into four separate parts — and this version is the one that is often seen today:

“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.”

However, the author of the Bill of Rights, James Madison, was not such a person as to abuse grammar rules and, like his predecessors in Jefferson and Franklin, he was rather specific and exercised practiced intent in how he phrased his statements — especially for documents of such import.

The actual text that was was read and approved and signed into law by the House of Representatives and the Senate, only included a single comma:

“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.”

Mind you, at the time of it’s writing, the term militia meant any body of armed men so-assembled to fight on behalf of the state. This is important and the placement of the single comma in the original text is extremely important when you also understand the nature of how such statements of intent were assembled at that time.

American_militia_firing_at_the_British_infantry_from_behind_a_split_rail_fence_during_the_Battle_of_Guilford_Courthouse,_March_15,_1781The first part before the comma is what is referred to as a dependent clause. A dependent clause is a phrase which cannot stand on it’s own. As such, it is included as a qualifier to a second independent’ clause and is included as reason for said independent clause. A ‘preamble‘ clause such as this is utilized to give (at least one, deemed most relevant or important) cause for the existence of the second, independent clause. The second half (after the comma) is in fact such an independent clause — one which stands on it’s own even without the pre-amble. (these are also referred to as a ‘prefactory’ and an ‘operative’ clause)

When you understand the nature of the language used and the manner in which it was written in the official, signed-into-law version, the original intent of this amendment is very clear. “The right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Nothing more needs to be said. But, the supporting clause given as the most relevant and important reason for this being so recognized is that the existence or formation of a militia is necessary to the security of a free state.

This is not ambiguous when you properly understand the language.

Discussions leading up to the drafting of the Bill of Rights included discussions of things such as individual self-defense against other individuals, and hunting, and shooting sports — the same as they do today. But the reason that was decided upon as the most relevant and important imperative cause to recognize and protect the individual right to keep and bear arms was the fact that it was also necessary for the state to have access to armies.

The purpose of the second amendment was NOT placed there for the purpose of having able bodied men who owned guns in the event the government needed to assemble such a militia. The second amendment was placed there BECAUSE the state would ultimately and necessarily always have access to such military force.

James Madison

James Madison, author of The Bill of Rights

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