Discussion Topic: On Guns And Grammar

Does the right to bear arms apply to individuals? How the Supreme Court answers this burning question in the upcoming District of Columbia v. Heller case may come down to mere punctuation.

_The outcome of the case is difficult to handicap, mainly because so little is known about the justices’ views on the lethal device at the center of the controversy: the comma. . . .

The official version of the Second Amendment has three of the little blighters:_

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 decision invalidating the district’s gun ban, written by Judge Laurence H. Silberman of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, cites the second comma (the one after “state”) as proof that the Second Amendment does not merely protect the “collective” right of states to maintain their militias, but endows each citizen with an “individual” right to carry a gun, regardless of membership in the local militia.

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