Worry about the freedom to
a gun even if you don't
By Charley Reese of The Sentinel Staff
Published in The Orlando Sentinel on July 20, 1999.
|The most intense effort to infringe on the right of Americans
to keep and bear arms is now under way, led mainly by Democrats.
This is a constitutional matter, not a matter of hardware or crime-fighting. All Americans, including those who don't own guns, should be concerned with guarding a right that has been recognized in America for more than two centuries. Some of us might not choose to exercise a right, such as speech or assembly, but nevertheless we should not want that right taken away.
So it is with the right to keep and bear arms. No one has to exercise that right, but all should rally to its defense. It, more than any other right, signifies that Americans are a free people and that sovereignty rests with the people, not with the government. If you are not a gun owner, then think of the Second Amendment as a symbol of your status as a free person with unalienable rights, which are a gift of God, not of the government.
And right here is a good time to point out that the Constitution does not, I say does not, grant anyone any rights whatsoever. What the Constitution does is simply acknowledge already-existing rights. If you read the first 10 amendments attentively, you can see that the language itself clearly indicates this. Nowhere will you find language such as "the right to . . . is granted."
Let's look at the Second Amendment, for example, from a grammatical point of view. The text is as follows:
"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."
Notice that it does not state that the right of the states to have militias shall not be infringed. This amendment consists of a nominative absolute and a subject and verb.
The nominative absolute is the phrase "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State." The subject of the sentence is "right." The verb is "shall be infringed" modified by the adverb, "not."
Thus the main sentence states plainly that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. So what's with the nominative absolute? Does it limit the right to keep and bear arms? Not at all. It merely answers the question, why should the right to keep and bear arms not be infringed.
Harper's English Grammar has this to say about nominative absolutes:
"The nominative absolute is, as a rule, the equivalent of an adverbial clause . . . ." Adverbs, you may recall from high school, modify verbs, other adverbs or adjectives. They do not modify nouns, which in this case is "right."
A modern way of writing might state, "Because a well-trained militia is essential to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."
The only modifiers of the noun "right" are the phrases "of the people" (note, please, it refers to people, not state, not militia) and "to keep and bear arms," which tells us which right.
At the time these amendments were written and ratified, the militia was the people. And the word "regulate," in 18th-century usage, meant to train or discipline. Today, we generally use the word to mean control.
Some might say the Second Amendment is obsolete. Our own century shows us that it is not. Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Fidel Castro, Pol Pot and Mao all saw to it that people were disarmed prior to commencing their reigns of terror and tyranny. God forbid, but Americans, too, could find themselves some day having to choose between submission or resistance to a tyrant.
An unarmed people are never a free people.
[Posted 07/19/1999 10:57 PM EST]
© 1999 Orlando Sentinel Online
22 July 1999