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Response to liberal N proud (Original post)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 11:05 AM

20. A good, lengthy, scholarly book review regarding this topic, "To Keep and Bear Arms" by Garry Wills

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1995/sep/21/to-keep-and-bear-arms/?pagination=false



...Yet both the general public, which has a disposition to believe that the Second Amendment protects gun ownership, and the NRA lobby are bolstered in that view by the sheer mass of the articles now being ground out and published in journals. It is difficult to sort out all the extraneous, irrelevant, and partial material daily thrown into the debate. Even to make a beginning is difficult. One must separate what the Second Amendment says from a whole list of other matters not immediately at issue. Some argue, for instance, that there is a natural right to own guns (Blackstone is often quoted here) antecedent to the right protected by the amendment, or that such a right may be protected in other places (common law, state constitutions, statute, custom, etc.). All that could be true without affecting the original scope of the Second Amendment. One could argue for instance, that owners of property have a right to charge rental on it—but that is not the point at issue in the Third Amendment (against quartering federal troops on private property).

In order to make any progress at all, we must restrict ourselves to what, precisely, is covered by the Second Amendment. That is not hard to determine, once the irrelevant debris adrift around its every term has been cleared away. Each term exists in a discernible historic context, as does the sentence structure of the amendment.

That amendment, as Madison first moved it, read:

The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well armed and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country; but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person.8

The whole sentence looks to military matters, the second clause giving the reason for the right’s existence, and the third giving an exception to that right. The connection of the parts can be made obvious by using the same structure to describe other rights. One could say, for instance: “The right of free speech shall not be infringed; an open exchange of views giving the best security to intellectual liberty; but no person shall be free to commit libel.” Every part is explained in relation to every other part. The third clause makes certain what Madison means in this place by “bear arms.” He is not saying that Quakers, who oppose war, will not be allowed to use guns for hunting or sport.

Did the changes made to Madison’s proposed amendment remove it from its original (solely military) context? Only two substitutions were made in the wording—”country” became “state” and “the best security of” became “necessary to.” This latter change might demote the right to bear arms by comparison with other rights (perhaps, say, free speech is the very best security of freedom), but it does not alter the thing being discussed.9 Beyond that, nothing was added to the text, so it could not be altered by addition. Was it altered by deletion? “Well armed and” was dropped, in drafting sessions that generally compressed the language, but “well regulated” includes “well armed” (see below, Number 3). Then the whole third clause was omitted—but for a reason that still dealt with the military consequences of the sentence.
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much much more at link.

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liberal N proud Dec 2012 OP
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LineReply A good, lengthy, scholarly book review regarding this topic, "To Keep and Bear Arms" by Garry Wills
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