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News Story
Updated: 03/21/2013 08:00:03AM

Grammar and guns

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I am not privy to the present method of teaching English, or if you prefer, grammar, but let me take you back many years to when I was in grade school. In those days every student had to learn how to parse sentences.

First the student had to learn the definition of what constituted a “sentence.” A “sentence,” had to make a logical expression of a thought for clarity and therefore it had to have certain standards.

It had to have a “subject,” that which is the primary force which leads or acts. It had to have a “predicate,” a verb which affirms something; and it had to have an “object,” that which completes or finalizes the goal of the “subject” and the “predicate.”

Good grammar (English) was most important. It set the ground rules. It established a method of speaking and writing, in a logical order.

For example, no split infinitives, no hanging prepositions or participles, that sort of thing. If the ground rules are not followed, the system of grammar and good English breaks down, and misunderstandings occur.

Now, with the introduction, let us look at the language of the 2nd Amendment: “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 question has to be asked, is this good grammar and how can it be parsed?

What is the subject, what is the predicate, what is the object to make it a logical expression of a thought and therefore, a good sentence. I do not want to be too critical of the Founders, but they could have been more specific.

After all they were the elite and well educated, literally and culturally. Did they mean “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, a well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state”? I think that was their intent, the right of the people to bear arms as part of the militia (it also parses better).

Now how do I justify the intent? I refer anybody who has the time and desire, to read both “The Federalist Papers” and the “Anti-Federalist Papers.” The Federalists and Anti-Federalists were the dominate political and cultural forces during this period. They had to give and take if the Constitution was to be ratified.

Both groups were opposed to standing armies, (the irony is that we now have one of the largest armies in the world), but both groups agreed that a well-regulated militia was necessary for a free state; to put down insurrections; for the purpose of national defense; that sort of thing.

We must remember that during this period, sovereign colonies carried over that sovereign attitude when they became states.

To be blunt, they did not trust each other, therefore the need for militia to keep the state free.

From a Constitutional standpoint, in the context of the current discussions regarding gun control, another review of the 2nd Amendment might be in order.

Paul Flynn

Lake Wales


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