Meditations on Reading

“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.”

That one sentence, more than any other these days, illustrates perfectly the ability of emotion to over-ride logic.

It is a perfectly adequate, and quite understandable, sentence; yet is the subject of more obfuscation, more nit-pickery, more mental gymnastics, and flat out more chicanery than any other sentence in recent history.

If you doubt this, take the sentence and perform a simple substitution: swap out some words, but leave the sentence grammatically identical — and watch people tie their brains into knots trying to explain why two grammatically identical sentences wind up meaning two different things.

In this case, let us take the classic 2nd Amendment substitution from Dr. Nelson Lund, of the Virginia Institute for Public Policy:

“A well educated Electorate, being necessary to self-governance in a free State, the right of the people to keep and read Books, shall not be infringed.”

I can hear them whinging now: “But, LawDog, ‘Militia’ instead of ‘Electorate’ makes it a whole different thing!”

No, Zippy, it doesn’t. The classic definition of ‘militia’ is “Every free man capable of bearing arms”, or “All able-bodied civilians eligible by law for military service”, and the current definition in Federal law is:

“The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, 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.”

The argument can be made that the Electorate is the Militia, but machts nichts.

So. Two grammatically identical sentences:

“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.”

“A well educated Electorate, being necessary to self-governance in a free State, the right of the people to keep and read Books, shall not be infringed.”

If you believe that one of these — again, grammatically identical sentences — means that the people have the right to keep and read books, but the other means that only the State-maintained National Guard can have guns …

… You might want to have your headspace and timing recalibrated. 

Nothing but love,

LawDog

YubTub!!
All right, then

10 thoughts on “Meditations on Reading”

    1. Alternate version I acquired from the intert00bz:
      “A well-tailored suit, being necessary to a sharp-dressed an, the right of the people to keep and wear clothes, shall not be infringed.”

      “Well-regulated” meant a combination of
      1) They are armed.
      2) Their arms are maintained in an operational state
      3) They know how to use them.

      There are historical records of militia musters where guys showed up unarmed, or with a rusty fowler that was mostly useful as a melee weapon, and sometimes that was questionable. The closer to the frontier, the less likely this was, but Indian raids on settlements in Massachusetts and New York were danger as late s King George’s War, if not the French and Indian War.

  1. The whole militia clause argument is a red herring. They said “people” not “state”. The right is vested in the people.

    Just like in the 1st, 4th, 9th, and 10th amendments. All written by the same guys, at the same time, on the same sheet of paper, with the same pen (https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/bill-of-rights-transcript)
    If they had meant otherwise, they would have said otherwise. And if someone wants to disagree, simply point out that the rights to free speech, to freedom of religion, to assemble and peacefully petition ones government for redress, to be secure in their persona, papers, and possessions against unreasonable searches – all these rights are also vested in “the people”. Now do they belong to you, individually, or to the government?

    Quod erat demonstrandum

    1. Although the more that I think about it, the more I realize that they’re trying to take books away as well. They’re just being more devious about it.

  2. If I could go back in time and change anything in the Constitution, I would tell them to make it as simple as possible. Leave out the explanation. Just state “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Don’t explain it. Make it like you were giving an order to a child that must be obeyed immediately.

  3. All this confusion, cuz we let tarring and feathering crooked politicians and lawyers fall out of fashion… silly us. And to the hand-wringing set, allow me to say, you’re dad-gummed RIGHT they’re “Weapons of War”, stop trying our patience!!

  4. I also like to point out, when educating people about the actual militia law, that it was passed in (I think) 1917. Since that time, various court cases have eliminated discrimination on the grounds of age or sex. It’s arguable now that *every* able-bodied adult citizen is a member of the unorganized militia regardless of age or sex – males and females and geezers alike.

  5. May I say that it irritates the hell out of me that females only count if they are members of the National Guard. There ARE those of us who were willing to raise the hand and take THE oath, dammit.

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