2nd Amendment FAQ
(from ‘The Unabridged Second Amendment’ by J. Neil Schulman, award-winning author)
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 words “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state,” contrary to the interpretation cited in your letter of July 26, 1991, constitutes a present participle, rather than a clause. It is used as an adjective, modifying “militia,” which is followed by the main clause of the sentence (subject “the right,” verb “shall”). The right to keep and bear arms is asserted as essential for maintaining a militia.
- Can the sentence be interpreted to grant the right to keep and bear arms solely to “a well-regulated militia”? The sentence does not restrict the right to keep and bear arms, nor does it state or imply possession of the right elsewhere or by others than the people; it simply makes a positive statement with respect to a right of the people.
- Is “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” granted by the words of the Second Amendment, or does the Second Amendment assume a pre-existing right of the people to keep and bear arms, and merely state that such right “shall not be infringed”? The right is not granted by the amendment; its existence is assumed. The thrust of the sentence is that the right shall be preserved inviolate for the sake of ensuring a militia.
- Is the right of the people to keep and bear arms conditioned upon whether or not a well-regulated militia, is, in fact, necessary to the security of a free State, and if that condition is not existing, is the statement “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” null and void? No such condition is expressed or implied. The right to keep and bear arms is not said by the amendment to depend on the existence of a militia. No condition is stated or implied as to the relation of the right to keep and bear arms and to the necessity of a well-regulated militia as a requisite to the security of a free state. The right to keep and bear arms is deemed unconditional by the entire sentence.
- Does the clause ‘A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, ” grant a right to the government to place conditions on the “right of the people to keep and bear arms, ” or is such right deemed unconditional by the meaning of the entire sentence? The right is assumed to exist and to be unconditional, as previously stated. It is invoked here specifically for the sake of the militia.
- Which of the following does the phrase “well-regulated militia” mean: “well-equipped, ” “well-organized, ” “well-drilled, ” “well-educated, ” or “subject to regulations of a superior authority”? The phrase means “subject to regulations of a superior authority;” this accords with the desire of the writers for civilian control over the military.
- If at all possible, I would ask you to take into account the changed meanings of words, or usage, since that sentence was written two-hundred years ago, but not take into account historical interpretations of the intents of the authors, unless those issues cannot be clearly separated. To the best of my knowledge, there has been no change in the meaning of words or in usage that would affect the meaning of the amendment. If it were written today, it might be put: “Since a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be abridged.”
- As a “scientific control” on this analysis, I would also appreciate it if you could compare your analysis of the text of the Second Amendment to the following sentence:
“A well-schooled electorate, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and read Books, shall not be infringed.”
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