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  • Gun Control Is Not Proper Reaction to Arizona Tragedy

    The wake of a violent tragedy is an appropriate time for reflection, investigation, prayer, and the promotion of healing.  It is a particularly inappropriate time for political opportunism.  After last weekend’s tragedy in Arizona, Congress should put the brakes on any desire to ram through gun-control legislation that will neither solve the perceived problems in federal law nor prevent any future assaults on public officials.  Observation teaches us that in the wake of crisis, politicians’ instinctive reaction is to check the legislative box and claim that they have solved a problem by passing legislation – any legislation.  More often than not, however, such knee-jerk legislation fails to deter future bad actors and creates more problems than solutions.

    Despite this reality, politicians on both sides of the aisle are already rushing to the floor in Congress to announce legislation supposedly designed to “prevent” the next madman from inflicting harm on our elected officials or other innocent Americans.  Representative Peter King (R-NY) was one of the first to offer up a hasty legislative reaction to the Arizona tragedy, proposing a new law that would “make it illegal to knowingly carry a gun within 1,000 feet of certain high-profile government officials.” 

    While King has yet to develop specific legislative language for the bill, he asserts that such a law “would give federal, state, and local law enforcement a better chance to intercept potential gunmen before they pull the trigger.”  In the abstract, this overarching goal may play well politically and receive positive media reaction in the wake of the horrible atrocity in Tucson.  In reality, however, King’s provision is likely to prove impossible to enforce, raise a number of constitutional objections, and provide little in the way of additional protection for government officials.

    As many commentators have already pointed out, it seems extremely unwieldy to enforce a law that provides a roving 1,000-foot gun-free bubble around every so-called “high-profile government official.”  Such a piece of legislation literally and figuratively creates a moving target for both law-enforcement officials and law-abiding citizens.  Imagine being a police officer tasked with securing such a gun-free bubble.  Do you set up a continuously moving perimeter around the official?  Do you attempt to frisk or question every person who enters the bubble?  Application of the law is no less clumsy from the average citizen’s perspective.  An unsuspecting citizen at one end of a street could be window shopping with a legally-licensed firearm only to come into a public official’s 1,000-foot bubble as he or she meanders down the same sidewalk.  Likewise, a hunter or recreational gun user at a firing range could be subject to criminal liability for exercising their lawful Second Amendment rights because they were innocently rubbing elbows with a public official.

    These examples also highlight some of the potential constitutional problems with King’s proposal.  Not only would the bill generate a number of serious Second Amendment and individual-liberty questions related to gun ownership and possession, but it would also raise red flags regarding the legislation’s handling of the constitutional principle of fair notice.  Along these lines, it is fair to ask whether the bill requires that the gun possessor have actual knowledge that his gun possession is prohibited before imposing criminal penalties on him.  Likewise, it is reasonable to ask whether violators only need to know that they have a gun (a perfectly legal and constitutional act in most jurisdictions) to be charged, or whether they need to know that they are carrying a gun within the prohibited bubble zone.  These are important questions that King has yet to address, but they point to a number of more significant problems with his preliminary proposal.

    Even more problematic, however, is the simple fact that King’s proposal would do little to prevent attacks like the one in Tucson.  It represents nonsensical policymaking, pure and simple.  Madmen typically do not consult Title 18 of the federal code before taking a gun to a political event, nor are they deterred by the possibility of an additional federal gun charge for their crime on top of the litany of existing federal and state charges addressing such criminal behavior.  It is much more likely that King’s law would criminalize the innocent behavior of law-abiding gun owners like Joe Zamudio (one of the Tucson heroes who helped to subdue the shooter) than provide any additional protections to government officials.  The impossibility of adequately enforcing King’s bill in open environments also serves to undercut its overall utility when applied to elected officeholders who make frequent public appearances in uncontrolled settings.

    But King is certainly not the only political opportunist at work this week.  Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Representative Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) have also proposed banning high ammunition clips in the wake of Saturday’s shootings.  The most likely idea on the table is to reinstate two provisions of the assault weapons ban law that expired in 2004.  According to the National Journal, Lautenberg and McCarthy “plan to introduce legislation to limit high-capacity clips that allow shooters to fire a large number of rounds without reloading.”  McCarthy introduced a bill in 2007, H.R. 1022, that reinstated two provisions of the Clinton Gun Ban (Sections 7 and Section 9).  These provisions banned the transfer of large capacity ammunition feeding device and the importation of large capacity ammunition feeding devices.

    Regardless of what one thinks about this policy, it remains clear that such provisions would not have prevented the massacre at issue because the alleged weapon used was a Glock and the provisions in existence between 1994 and 2004 would not have banned the magazine used by the killer.  Much like the King proposal, this bill smacks more of opportunism than common-sense policy making.

    It is inevitable that certain Members of Congress will remain motivated to derive political benefit from this unspeakable tragedy. Level-headed lawmakers, however, should pause and deliberately investigate the facts of this case before adding to the over 4,450 federal crimes already in the statute books and tens of thousands of regulatory crimes already present in the Federal Register.  This is not the time to legislate for the sake of legislating.  The gun-control ideas being discussed this week would not have prevented the Tucson shooting, nor will they do anything to deter similar attacks in the future.  Rather than seeking out opportunities to unnecessarily extend America’s already expansive gun-control laws, legislators should take the time to honor the memory of those lost in Tucson and allow Arizona officials to assess how Loughner slipped through the cracks of its educational, legal, and mental-health systems.  At this challenging time, Congress would do best to restrain itself, disavow political opportunism, and avoid the national blame game.  Only time will tell if that will occur.

    Co-authored by Brian Darling.

    Posted in Legal [slideshow_deploy]

    18 Responses to Gun Control Is Not Proper Reaction to Arizona Tragedy

    1. West Texan says:

      It's the social progressive's default to control everything in our lives. Be it guns, the environment, medical treatments, when to go potty, you name it. You're right, they're like opportunistic pathogens ready to control the body through an open wound.

    2. Pingback: ~THIS JUST IN… | Just Piper

    3. Bobbie says:

      GUN CONTROL IS NOT PROPER REACTION TO ARIZONA TRAGEDY! Law abiding citizens are not at fault. The actions of this man is the result of failed actions from his past. Signs addressed his mentality yet no one stepped in. Not even sheriff Dupinak. Too much government control leads to little respect and more control of the people. Just another irrational move for more money…

    4. Steven A. Sylwester, says:

      Ben Keane and Brian Darling,

      Your co-authored essay "Gun Control Is Not Proper Reaction to Arizona Tragedy" fails to observe the elephant in the room, but that elephant has been invisible to almost all observers since 1791 when the Bill of Rights became law.

      I might be the first person in a long time to observe the elephant living in the Second Amendment, though I am sure some others must have seen it before me at times during the preceding 218 years. I am not inventing something. In fact, I firmly believe the Founding Fathers who authored the Bill of Rights fully intended that the elephant I see plainly would be plainly visible to all others, too — that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution would be rightly understood and honored as it was intended, not as it has been misconstrued.

      I wrote the following essay in October 2009, and then posted it online on October 25, 2009. Every educated person who reads my essay should be able to see the elephant without fail. However, all of the U.S. Supreme Court justices since 1791 who have ever ruled on the Second Amendment have been entirely blind to the elephant, including those justices who now sit on the Court. It staggers the mind.

      My only guess to explain the blindness of so many people who should know better is this: 1) American law schools do not teach the rules of grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure for the English language, because they assume their students are already properly educated in those rules, 2) present-day lawyers and judges, in their ignorance of the rules governing their own language, wrongly assume that the Founding Fathers were uneducated according to our present-day standards, and were therefore sometimes incoherent in the writing of our nation's first laws due to an understandable and forgivable incompetence, and 3) present-day lawyers and judges are overworked, so they often rely on wrong precedents established by others instead of their own curiosity, which results in the obvious sometimes being ignored and the elephants in the room becoming invisible.

      Much has changed in America since 1791. Even so, my following essay reveals the truth of the matter very plainly, and that truth is this: gun ownership by private U.S. citizens in 2011 is not a Constitutional right according to the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

      http://steven-a-sylwester.blogspot.com/2009/10/se

      The Second Amendment to The U.S. Constitution in The Bill of Rights states: “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.”

      The U.S. Supreme Court has announced that it will hear the case of McDonald v. City of Chicago, which challenges a Chicago law banning handguns and requiring the annual taxation of firearms. Those who brought the case assert that a citizen has a right to “keep and bear Arms” without government interference.

      The Second Amendment has been misunderstood because of its three commas ever since its adoption by the states in 1791. Certainly, the men who wrote the amendment and fought for its adoption were men who were properly educated in punctuation and the various grammatical constructs of the English language. They understood the correct usage of commas to purposely isolate a clause or to otherwise reorder a sentence’s clauses to achieve an effect, and they used that mastery deliberately. In having and exercising that sophistication, they also were men who would agree that a complicated and confusing sentence could be made uncomplicated and clearly stated by simply reordering the clauses to indisputably form the sentence’s root sentence — that straightforward plain sentence which reduces the need for commas to an essential bare minimum if it does not eliminate all commas altogether.

      There are four clauses in the Second Amendment and three commas. To aid the forming of the root sentence, number the amendment’s as-is clauses 1, 2, 3, and 4. Because of the existing commas, clause 2 cannot follow clause 1, clause 3 cannot follow clause 2, and clause 4 cannot follow clause 3 in the root sentence. Clause 4 is the only predicate/verb clause of the four clauses, so the root sentence’s subject/noun clause must be clause 1. A clearly stated root sentence must lead with its subject/noun clause immediately followed by its predicate/verb clause. Therefore, the clauses for the Second Amendment’s root sentence must read 1, 4, 3, and 2, with the “3, 2” pairing giving added definition and clarification to the “1, 4” pairing, which justifies the remaining comma punctuation.

      Correctly reordering the clauses of the Second Amendment to eliminate unnecessary commas results in this: A well regulated Militia shall not be infringed, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms being necessary to the security of a free State.

      What does this mean? Plainly, it means that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” is not a Constitutional right except insofar as it serves the needs of “a well regulated Militia,” which means not at all as long as the government is able to maintain an adequately stocked and well distributed armory to guarantee “the security of a free State.” Webster’s Dictionary defines “militia” as: “a part of the organized armed forces of a country liable to call only in emergency.” In the United States today, the militia is the National Guard.

      Furthermore, the use of capital letters in the words Militia, Arms, and State is telling. According to the Handbook of Style in Webster’s Dictionary: “Capitals are used for two broad purposes in English: they mark a beginning (as of a sentence) and they signal a proper noun or adjective. … 7. The names of persons and places, of organizations and their members, of congresses and councils, and of historical periods and events are capitalized. 8. The names of ships, aircraft, and spacecraft are capitalized. …” Therefore, very specifically, the Second Amendment’s use of capitalization is referencing Militia, Arms, and State as those terms define U.S. government-controlled military groups, weaponry, and geography and its political governance.

      The only conclusion that can be drawn then is this: The private ownership of guns and ammunition is not a right that is protected by the U.S. Constitution. Certainly, federal, state, and local governments are fully within their Constitutional rights to regulate and control the sale and ownership of “Arms,” including any type of gun and its ammunition — even to the point of banning guns of any and all sorts. This is not a matter of honoring misguided legal precedents that have now spanned more than 215 years. Instead, it is a matter of honoring the English language and its rules of punctuation and grammar.

      “A well regulated Militia shall not be infringed, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms being necessary to the security of a free State.” Believe it!

      Steven A. Sylwester

      October 25, 2009

      * * *

      Unfortunately, our misunderstandings of the intentions of the Founding Fathers are not limited to the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Consider:
      http://steven-a-sylwester.blogspot.com/2009/10/bihttp://steven-a-sylwester.blogspot.com/2009/10/al

      Unfortunately, the troubling revelations are not limited to domestic issues. Consider:
      http://what-is-whispered-proclaim.blogspot.com/20

      Ben Keane and Brian Darling, push this hard: according to the masthead, The Heritage Foundation is busy "Building an America where freedom, opportunity, prosperity, and civil society flourish." and "THE FOUNDRY PROMOTES CONSERVATIVE POLICIES AND PRINCIPLES BY MARRYING THE BEST IN PUBLIC POLICY RESEARCH WITH THE DAY'S CURRENT EVENTS." In all of that, a correct understanding of the U.S. Constitution is paramount.

      Therefore, the motive for Gun Control is a proper and correct adherence in law to the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, not a reaction to the recent shootings in Arizona. Quite probably, the tragedy in Arizona would not have happened if America's gun laws honored the Founding Fathers' stated intent in the Second Amendment, but we will never know. However, what we should know now is this: our long-held ignorance has been enlightened by truth, our present efforts should focus on correcting our past errors, and our future can be safer for all citizens.

      Steven A. Sylwester

      • Antone says:

        Hey Sylvester (The Cartoon Cat)
        Your arguments are intensely illogical. Let us assume (for the sake of argument) that your comments about the four clauses is correct and the proper root root sentence should be [1,4, 3,2], as you suggest, with [3] and [2] being used simply to add clarification to [1] and [4].

        The sentence you created, is clearly a little awkward in modern English, so let us restate what it means in a manner that is just a bit clearer: "A well regulated Militia shall not be infringed, SINCE the right of the people to keep and bear Arms IS necessary to the security of a free State."

        Your argument is based on the notion that the founding fathers were smart enough to say what they meant, but then you counter this argument by claiming that what they said isn't really what they meant, since you argue that the "Militia" isn't necessary now that we have an army. But according to you, the founders just said that the militia WAS necessary. So your own argument undercuts itself.

        • Antone says:

          And the other writings of the founding fathers also very clearly support the idea that this was indeed exaclty what they meant as well…

          Patrick Henry said, "The militia, sir, is our ultimate safety… Whenever you give up that force, you are ruined…The great object is that every man be armed. Everyone who is able might have a gun."

          Thomas Jefferson said, "The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." and "Laws that forbid the carrying of arms…disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes…Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants…"

    5. James Byrd, Californ says:

      The left always speaks of how they are the compassionate ones. Ive yet to see this compassion they speak of.

      James Byrd

      Young Presidents Club Member

      http://cagpapers.wordpress.com

    6. West Texan says:

      What Elephant? Steven's comments are confusing. "A well regulated militia…" has to be viewed through the eyes of revolutionary veterans. The militia was comprised of citizens, like town folk, that came together with privately owned firearms to protect their homes and communities against potential or real threats. The 2nd Amendment was added to guarantee that this individual right would always be recognized. In other words, it's an inherited right. Overreaching governments can only subvert through restrictive laws. But the right to keep and bear arms it's not theirs to give. That said, such a right only applies to responsible and rational adults. By nature, the very young or insane aren't accountable for their actions. Arizona's assailant fell through their community's mental health cracks. This was the cause the problem that needs fixing.

    7. Bobbie says:

      Steven A. Sylwester, I will give you this to ponder. None of mankind can be in control of any one of mankind's actions. America has civil law that needs to be enforced not made exception to. Mankind is not as weak as you seem to portray.

    8. Buckaroo says:

      You have only to look at what has been going on in Mexico for years to understand why taking guns away from law abiding citizens and turning contorl over to the government to control supply would makes things worse. The government is so corrupt that those in the police and militia regulary sell their weapon (legal and seized) to the drug cartels. Now the criminals there are more heavily armed than those trying (if it were true) to curb the vilolence and death rate. Particulary humorous is the recent attempt by Peter King (R-NY) to offer up a hasty legislative reaction to the Arizona tragedy, proposing a new law that would “make it illegal to knowingly carry a gun within 1,000 feet of certain high-profile government officials.” Just like a politician to try an save his/her own skin while showing no conern for the lack of a 'bullet bubble' for anyone who is not a "high profile government official"….what a moron. If you care about keeping your Second Amendent rights then you need to watch closely, in the coming days, the rhetoric and plans in progress to ratify the CIFTA treaty under the guise of international law. You know the current administration hates to pass up a good crisis to promote the liberal agenda.

    9. Pingback: The Second Amendment Under Attack In 2011 | RedState

    10. Earl, QUEENS, NY says:

      It is indeed sad that leftists and demon-crats will exploit tragedies like this as an excuse to lash out at the NRA and the 2nd Amendment, never mind the fact that even the most rigid gun laws will only hurt law-abiding Americans while doing nothing to stop crime. Also, now it appears Jared Loughner wasn’t the only nut job on the scene in Tucson 8 days ago. In today’s (Sunday, 1/16/2011) NY Daily News, we read of a 63 year old who was wounded in the shooting, and was taken into custody yesterday for psychiatric evaluation after making threats against a tea party leader who was obviously against gun control. Hmmmm!! Would this 63-year old moron be against the 2nd Amendment had an armed citizen stopped Loughner before he was wounded?? This 63-year-old sounds like another Jim Brady, whose wife Sarah wheels him around as they peddle drivel suggesting that tougher gun laws would prevent such tragedies. GET REAL!!!! As sad as it is, we know that John Hinckley committed the crime in the city (Washington DC) with America’s most rigid gun laws!! Also, there were no guns involved in the 2 worst mass killings in history – Oklahoma City in 1995, and the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks. As for the latter, had the flight crews and/or passengers been armed, the 9/11 tragedy could’ve been prevented and the WTC towers would be standing today!! And thousands of lives could’ve been saved if bullets had been used to stop the suicidal terrorists!!

    11. Rebecca says:

      i see that this article has a coauthor it raises the qestion who is the main author or other co author?

      • Brandon Stewart Brandon Stewart says:

        @Rebecca, you'll note that it lists Ben Keane as the other co-author towards the bottom.

    12. Pingback: The Second Amendment Under Attack In 2011 « Articles/pics « Syndicated Jokers

    13. Senna says:

      Sylvester, you have the wrong definition of militia. Militia means an armed force created by citizens, not the government. You need to read the meaning of militia as the term was used during the American Revolution by the men who wrote the Constitution. The right to bear arms meant that citizens needed to protect themselves, not only from government, but also from the "merciless savages" incited by the British to attack the Patriots, who were colonizing Native American lands and meeting resistance from the natives. And they needed arms to protect themselves from slave insurrections. Militias were always local armed citizens. They were never instruments of the government created by the government. The Continental Congress often wished that it were a government, as George Washington complained, so as to employ members of the militia to fight as full-time soldiers against the hired mercenaries on the British payroll. But the Patriots were mostly volunteers, seasonal fighters, who aided the regular army until planting season. And then they left Washington and the Continental Congress without notice to continue to fight the war. Militia then meant volunteers. No one paid you if you were in a militia. Your payment was plundering Loyalist Tory supporters of the British and stealing the land of their Native American allies.

      As Thomas Jefferson interpreted the Second Amendment:

      "When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.."

      "The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government…The beauty of the Second Amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it."

      Was the government to prescribe to us our medicine and diet, our bodies would be in such keeping as our souls are now.

      I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.

      “Laws that forbid the carrying of arms…disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes… Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.” (Quoting Cesare Beccaria)"
      http://jpetrie.myweb.uga.edu/TJ.html

    14. Steven A. Sylwester, says:

      Senna, thank you for your response to my January 13th comment. Plainly, you care deeply about the Second Amendment as a Constitutional right that you consider to be frozen in history in a circumstance that has not essentially changed from post Revolutionary War times until now. I can appreciate an opinion that rests its thinking on the unchanging vagaries of human nature, and on the ever-present war between Good and Evil. In my own case, I believe The Holy Bible tells a true story that is just as relevant today as it ever was at any earlier time in history. Yes, circumstances that inevitably reduce to human nature responses become timeless and universal, and the lessons ever learned in such circumstances are always to be considered at future times when the same circumstances repeat. As the saying goes: history not learned will repeat itself.

      But law is something different than history, and the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is law. Whatever the history surrounding the writing of the Second Amendment might have been in fact, it is wholly irrelevant to the law itself. Furthermore, history cannot ever be more than one person's opinion about a series of events or a period in time. In truth, "history" is "his/her story" as told by a historian, no matter who the historian might be — even including you.

      Senna, can you truly speak for anyone other than yourself? I am 56 years old, and I have been married for more than 35 years to someone I have known since we were both five years old. I cannot truly speak for either of my parents, any of my siblings, my wife, or either of my children, and I have shared firsthand with all of those people in much of the history that is each of our lives. Even the history among us that is together fully shared is nonetheless experienced individually from each person's unique perspective. At best, shared history is an approximation of a compromised average of the memories that people are willing and able to both recall and share, and then agree upon — and that is in real time among the living. To make a claim that you can accurately resurrect the true intentions inherent in the events of 220 years ago is to make a fool of yourself.

      The Second Amendment was ratified with the rest of the Bill of Rights effective December 15, 1791. That is all we know with certainty. Was it a unanimous vote in favor of the Second Amendment at every step from first proposal to final ratification? I doubt it. Did the language of the Second Amendment go unchanged from first proposal to final ratification? I doubt it. The Second Amendment was not ratified with an addendum that identifies the one or two people whose writings are forever reliable to properly interpret its intent. And that would be utter foolishness anyway, because even great men sometimes change their minds about things of great importance, even about things for which they had previously cast a vote.

      The Second Amendment can only rightly be considered as what it is: a law — 27 words that together and alone define a Constitutional contract between the federal government and the citizens of the United States of America. Those 27 words are what they are. I argue in favor of this: 1) The Founding Fathers were intelligent clever politicians who were educated and articulate; 2) they were especially skilled in the rules of the English language regarding grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and style; 3) they had to compromise amongst themselves and in conference with their constituents in preparation for the ratification votes, and so they gamed the language of the Second Amendment to maximize the probability that it would be ratified; 4) they were not above duping lesser minds in order to achieve their ends, because all politicians at all times do such things; and 5) they fully expected the intelligent educated national leaders of future American generations would correctly reorder the four clauses of the Second Amendment to clearly understand its intent, because they knew the rules of the English language are inviolable pertaining to the law and its interpretations.

      Senna, where do you disagree with me? I have separated my argument into five parts, so please identify the parts where I have erred in your opinion.

      You question my definition of the word "militia." My source is Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary (Copyright 1976). The definition in its entirety states:

      militia n [L, military service, fr. milit-, miles] 1 : a part of the organized armed forces of a country liable to call only in emergency 2 : the whole body of able-bodied male citizens declared by law as being subject to call to military service — militiaman n

      In its PREFACE, my source dictionary states the following:

      Quote: "In 1898 the first edition of the COLLEGIATE appeared. … This seventh in the COLLEGIATE series incorporates the best of the time-tested features of its predecessors."

      Quote: "In general the order of definitions follows the practice of the THIRD NEW INTERNATIONAL, where the earliest ascertainable meaning is placed first and later meanings are arranged in the order shown to be most probable by dated citations and semantic development. … The historical order is of especial value to those interested in the development of meanings …"

      Quote: "WEBSTER'S SEVENTH NEW COLLEGIATE DICTIONARY represents the results of the collaborative efforts of the permanent MERRIAM-WEBSTER editorial staff. It is the product of the only organization specializing completely in dictionary making with more than 100 years of continuous experience in this field."

      Therefore, the definition of "militia" used by me has been the accepted published definition since before 1875, which is approximately 83 years after the December 15, 1791, ratification of the Second Amendment. Senna, if you can cite a circa 1791 dictionary definition of the word "militia" that is different in meaning, please do so. The law must be precise according to accepted dictionary definitions of the words used. It cannot be otherwise.

      Senna, what you have to contend with are the following two Acts of Congress:

      Source: http://www2.law.ucla.edu/volokh/2amteach/sources….

      Militia Act of 1792 : 2nd Cong. sess. I, ch. 33 (1792).

      Sec. 1. Be it enacted . . . That each and every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective states, resident therein, who is or shall be of the age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years (except as is herein after excepted) shall severally and respectively be enrolled in the militia . . . . That every citizen so enrolled and notified, shall, within six months thereafter, provide himself with a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch with a box therein to contain not less than twenty-four cartridges, suited to the bore of his musket or firelock, each cartridge to contain a proper quantity of powder and ball: or with a good rifle, knapsack, shot-pouch and powder-horn, twenty balls suited to the bore of his rifle, and a quarter of a pound of powder. . . .

      Sec. 2. [Exempting the Vice President, federal judicial and executive officers, congressmen and congressional officers, custom-house officers and clerks, post-officers and postal stage drivers, ferrymen on post roads, export inspectors, pilots, merchant mariners, and people exempted under the laws of their states.]

      The currently effective Militia Act : 10 U.S.C. § 311 (enacted 1956, amended 1958).

      (a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and . . . under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.

      (b) The classes of the militia are –

      (1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and

      (2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.

      * * *

      Senna, the entire problem centers around "the unorganized militia," which by definition of the U.S. Congress is only "able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and . . . under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States." That is it. The Second Amendment does not apply to women at all, and to no men who are under 17 years of age and over 44 years of age, and to no men of any age who are not citizens of the United States. That is the law.

      Now please read again the Second Amendment as I have restated it in plain sentence:

      A well regulated Militia shall not be infringed, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms being necessary to the security of a free State.

      Senna, at best, you are arguing for unlimited gun ownership rights for U.S. citizens who happen to be males between the ages of 17 and 44, and that is it — no one else! On their 45th birthday, all males who are U.S. citizens would have to forfeit their guns to the U.S. government. Imagine that! If you care about gun ownership rights, you should abandon the Second Amendment for something else.

      Steven A. Sylwester

      Also consider:
      http://community.nytimes.com/comments/opinionatorhttp://community.nytimes.com/comments/www.nytimes

      • Mark B says:

        Mr. Sylwester, please…
        One only need examine the other writings of the founders to conclude that their methods of comma usage differed from ours. They seemed to employ commas to help the reader follow the conversational cadence of their thoughts and written words, to "take a breath", as it were.
        It is revealing when someone like you goes to such great verbal gymnastics to decipher what the framers meant, and as US Circuit Court Judge Alex Kozinski wrote, such gymnastics have "…all the grace of a sumo wrestler trying to kill a rattlesnake by sitting on it".
        We are literally deluged with other writings, letters and quotes from the founders that make unmistakably clear what their intent was – why on Earth need we speculate at all? Why must we fabricate an elaborate thesis on grammar in an effort to erase these words?
        2A is the only amendment with a prefatory statement before the operative clause. Why? I for one humorously envision the founders expressing the second most holy unalienable right using only the fourteen words of the operative clause, then looking at one another and pondering, "y'know, years from now they're gonna think we were a little psycho". Then one of them says, "OK, we'll clarify a little so that future generations, who will hopefully be living in kinder times, will understand what inspired us to place this amendment second only to free speech."
        So Jefferson offers – "Since the people must always be prepared to band together to defend their liberty from foreign aggression as well as the tyrannical aspirations of their own government, and since history has taught us that the first act of such a government is the disarming of the populace, let the government be forbidden, today and always, from depriving the people of their unalienable right to own and carry arms for all purposes, most notably defense."
        Madison looks up thoughtfully and says " A little windy…"
        Jefferson, looking a little indignant, ponders a moment and replies, "OK, how about – '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.' "
        Madison nods, writes it down, offers the paper to Jefferson. Jeff reads it and scolds, "What the devil is it with you and the commas? This looks ridiculous."
        They argue a little, and when things calm down, Jefferson reads it again, and concludes "Know what? The heck with it. To read this, I can't fathom how anyone in this or any future time could possibly misinterpret what these words say." ( insert trumpet going 'BWA-BWAaaaaaaaaaa')
        Then he turns a second time to Madison and asks, "Do we have any white-out or something? For the two extra commas? No? Maybe you can, like, scrape it off?"
        Madison shakes his head slowly. Scene fades to black…

        Again I say, the founders ( all of them ) left us with volumes of their other beliefs and axioms, all of which blatantly clarified "what they meant". Thank goodness.

        Mark

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