Guns

John Bush jbush at POST.CIS.SMU.EDU
Fri Aug 29 08:42:14 MDT 1997


On Thu, 28 Aug 1997, Stephen A. Frye wrote:

> >The first part of the amendment (A well regulated Militia, being
> >necessary to the security of a free State) is a NON-RESTRICIVE
> >clause.  It is explanatory, but not an integral part of what follows.
> >If you read legal documents, you will note that there are pages of
> >"whereas..." before you get to the actual statement that has legal
> >bearing.  This is exactly that, and nothing more.
>
> The first part is not a clause - hence the definition of a NON-RESTRICTIVE
> clause is irrelevant.  It is a phrase - specifically, a nominative absolute
> - which is syntactically used to modify a clause.  To wit: "A parenthetical
> phrase which qualifies a whole clause or the rest of the sentence but which
> is not grammatically related to it by a connective.  It's basic pattern is
> usually a NOUN + PARTICIPLE. (This construction is often called a
> nominative absolute, a sentence modifier, or simply an adverbial phrase.)"
> (Hodges/Whitten, page 423).
>
> >
> >The second part of the amendment (the right of the people to keep and
> >bear Arms, shall not be infringed) stands on it's own.  It is not
> >the right of the militia or the state--it is the right of the
> >"people."  (You remember, "We the people....")
>
> I will still refrain from agreeing or disagreeing with your interpretation
> of the amendment.  I take issue only with your interpretation of the grammar.

Well, if you want to get truly technical about the whole issue, here
it is:

[taken from http://www.shadeslanding.com/firearms/unabridged.2nd.html
and quotes are by Roy Copperud, a retired professor of journalism at
the University of Southern California and the author of "American
Usage and Style: The Consensus." ]

"The words 'A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security
of a free state,' ...constitutes a present participle, rather than a
clause. It is used as an adjective, modifying 'militia,' which is
followed by the main clause of the sentence (subject 'the right', verb
'shall'). The to keep and bear arms is asserted as an essential for
maintaining a militia."

"The sentence does not restrict the right to keep and bear arms, nor
does it state or imply possession of the right elsewhere or by others
than the people; it simply makes a positive statement with respect to
a right of the people."

"The right is not granted by the amendment; its existence is assumed.
The thrust of the sentence is that the right shall be preserved
inviolate for the sake of ensuring a militia."

"QUESTION: Is the right of the people to keep and bear arms
conditioned upon whether or not a well regulated militia, is, in fact
necessary to the security of a free State, and if that condition is
not existing, is the statement 'the right of the people to keep and
bear Arms, shall not be infringed' null and void?"

"ANSWER: No such condition is expressed or implied. The right
to keep and bear arms is not said by the amendment to depend on the
existence of a militia. No condition is stated or implied as to the
relation of the right to keep and bear arms and to the necessity of a
well-regulated militia as a requisite to the security of a free state.
The right to keep and bear arms is deemed unconditional by the entire
sentence."

"QUESTION: Does the clause 'A well-regulated Militia, being
necessary to the security of a free State,' grant a right to the
government to place conditions on the 'right of the people to keep and
bear arms,' or is such right deemed unconditional by the meaning of
the entire sentence?"

"ANSWER: The right is assumed to exist and to be
unconditional, as previously stated. It is invoked here specifically
for the sake of the militia."

"If it were written today, it might be put: "Since a well-regulated
militia is necessary tot he security of a free state, the right of the
people to keep and bear arms shall not be abridged.' "

And finally,

"[Schulman:] "As a 'scientific control' on this analysis, I would also
appreciate it if you could compare your analysis of the text of the
Second Amendment to the following sentence,

"A well-schooled electorate, being necessary to the security of a free
State, the right of the people to keep and read Books, shall not be
infringed.'

"My questions for the usage analysis of this sentence would be,

"(1) Is the grammatical structure and usage of this sentence and the
way the words modify each other, identical to the Second Amendment's
sentence?; and

"(2) Could this sentence be interpreted to restrict 'the right of the
people to keep and read Books' _only_ to 'a well-educated electorate'
-- for example, registered voters with a high-school diploma?"

[Copperud:] "(1) Your 'scientific control' sentence precisely
parallels the amendment in grammatical structure.

"(2) There is nothing in your sentence that either indicates or
implies the possibility of a restricted interpretation."



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