View Full Version : I can't parse the Second Amendment
07-14-2003, 06:17 AM
The Second Amendment to the US Constitution reads: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.This doesn't make sense; there appears to be several words missing. "A well regulated militia" just hangs there, never getting referred back to.
Shouldn't it read "A well regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state. Therefore, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."?
So, what am I missing? Wasn't grammar invented back then?
07-14-2003, 06:29 AM
Maybe visiting GD will help you, in particular the thread What does the first half of the Second Amendment mean? (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?s=&threadid=197215). :)
07-14-2003, 06:39 AM
Actually, that's where I got the idea, Tusculan. I understand that there are at least two interpretations of the Second Amendment, but that's not what I want to know. The Second Amendment seems grammatically incorrect to me.
07-14-2003, 06:43 AM
Ah, I already found it an odd coincidence. Sorry about that. Can't help you here.
07-14-2003, 06:43 AM
I deliberately haven't looked at Tusculan's link, but approached the wording as if it were fresh, and without prejudice. I think if you insert a nominal comma after "militia", it makes more sense. My parsing is:The US state shall not infringe the right of the people to keep and bear arms, because a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state.
07-14-2003, 06:50 AM
I agree with jjimm's reading. Would you have a problem with the sentence
It being cold, I shall wear my coat today.
07-14-2003, 06:57 AM
I can't believe my own stupidity. When I read the text of the Second Amendment in the thread Tusculan linked to, there was a comma after the word "militia", which made me expect "militia" to be referred back to. Before starting this thread, I checked the actual text of the Second Amendment, which had no comma... Jabba's post shows my error.
Sorry to bother you all.
Earl Snake-Hips Tucker
07-14-2003, 09:04 AM
The first part is a linguistic construction called a "nominative absolute."
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