How to Understand the 2nd Amendment

On Science Blogs a commenter named Dingo Jack wrote the following wonderful comment.

 

Those poor Founding Fathers, they'd never have thought that even well-educated Americans wouldn't have a clue what a Nominative Absolute* is and how to use it. Dingo ----- * The Nominative absolute is similar in structure and use to the Latin Ablative Absolute and the Greek Genitive Absolute (the subordinate clause being in the Nominative, Ablative and Genitive cases, respectively).

I'll translate for you: "[When a] ... well regulated Militia... [is] ... necessary... [for] ... the security of a free State, [then] the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed [but if the first clause is false, then the second clause is inactive.]

(The main clause is in bold, the subordinate clause in italics)

(cross posted on Mikeb302000)

Tags: gun control, gun rights, 2nd Amendment (all tags)

Comments

4 Comments

RE: How to Understand the 2nd Amendment

The way to "understand" the 2nd Amendment is to understand that the individual citizen's pre-existing right to keep and bear arms does not depend on the 2nd Amendment for its existence. 

The Constitution is a charter of conferred powers; powers We the People possess and only lend to government.  All not conferred is retained by the people and that "great residuum" is our rights.  This was a very unique establishing principle for a government and many believed that under such a government trying to list rights in a Bill of Rights was not only impossible but would be dangerous. 

Hamilton asked, "why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do?"  He feared that even though the provisions could not be said to "confer a regulating power. . . it would furnish, to men disposed to usurp, a plausible pretense for claiming that power". 

This is precisely what is happening with the 2nd Amendment; all manner of misconstructions of its words and action are being used by those desiring to usurp to define away the citizen's rights.

To address your post directly, not only is the premise incorrect (that the declaratory clause conditions or qualifies the restrictive clause) his grammar is wrong too.  The quote you provide says so!

Absolute clauses are incomplete, they do not convey a complete thought and as such are dependent (or as the description says above, "subordinate".  Your cut-n-paster flips this relationship and says the restrictive clause (the independent clause) is subordinate.  Wassupwidat?

Dingo Jack is hopelessly mixed up.  The restrictive clause can never become "inactive" because no power was ever granted to government to impact in any fashion the personal arms of the private citizen.  The 2nd Amendment does not grant the right it only recognizes it and redundantly (see Hamilton above) forbids the government to exercise powers it was never granted.

If one wants to give the declaratory clause meaning one could say it is telling us why the AMENDMENT exists, . . . Why the framers believed that the citizen's inherent - never surrendered - fully retained - right to keep and bear arms is being forever secured from governmental injury. That can't be said to condition the right because again, no power was given to condition it.

So, to understand the 2nd Amendment all one needs to know is that the government can not 'give back' to the people something the people never parted with.  The corollary is of course, government can not 'take back' something they never possessed.

Unless government steals it through usurpation!  And that's when the other principle of the 2nd comes into play; the people's right to rescind their consent to be governed.

 

by Rick_OShea 2011-06-20 03:11PM | 0 recs
Try this Rick

Try taking that quote as a humorous way of making a simple point. Instead of taking it so seriously and debating it with "absolute clauses" and "restrictive clauses," just understand this. The 2nd Amendment is totally anachronistic and has no meaning in today's world.  I know that's a little strong, but think about it. Think about what "militia" referred to in 1790 and tell me how you get from that to some guy carrying a concealed weapon in 2011 Baltimore.

by Mikeb302000 2011-06-22 03:43AM | 0 recs
Try this Rick

Try taking that quote as a humorous way of making a simple point. Instead of taking it so seriously and debating it with "absolute clauses" and "restrictive clauses," just understand this. The 2nd Amendment is totally anachronistic and has no meaning in today's world.  I know that's a little strong, but think about it. Think about what "militia" referred to in 1790 and tell me how you get from that to some guy carrying a concealed weapon in 2011 Baltimore.

by Mikeb302000 2011-06-22 03:43AM | 0 recs
RE: How to Understand the 2nd Amendment
Why the framers believed that the citizen's inherent - never surrendered - fully retained - right to keep and bear arms is being forever secured from governmental injury. ______________________
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