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The Second Amendment’s Actual Words



It’s rare that a political text makes me angry, because I know they are largely meaningless. But when Donald Trump released his position paper on the Second Amendment, the phrasing, even more than the politics, drove me up the wall:

The Second Amendment to our Constitution is clear. The right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed upon. Period.

Actually, no. That word “Period” makes me incandescently angry. It’s wrong on all levels. First, “upon” is not the end of the Second Amendment. Not only would James Madison not end a sentence with a preposition, but there is a whole second half of the Second Amendment that conservatives have decided doesn’t matter. Second, the second half of that amendment means that the debate is not over at all, no matter how much of a “period” you try to place it–even with bold text and all caps and all the exclamation points in the universe.

Not that LGM readers need a primer on the Constitution, but the Second Amendment in fact reads:

“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’s a vague, poorly worded, and complex statement that one can easily read, as I do, to say that the people have a right to a militia of citizens and that those citizens may have guns, at least while on duty. It hardly says anything else with clarity. And it certainly doesn’t say that some jerk on the street can have 18 guns without background checks.

We all know the debate over the Second Amendment is completely bonkers (and that the same people who are all Strict Construction! Originialist! on this and then wipe themselves with the Fourth Amendment makes it even worse) but that the gun extremists have to lie about what it says demonstrates the thin Constitutional ice upon which they skate. Not that it matters in 2015.

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