LETTER: Grammarian gives expert analysis of Second Amendment

Feb. 27, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

To the Editor:

I have read the Second Amendment many times trying to understand its exact meaning. The amendment consists of only one sentence and appears to be ambiguous in context. I have wondered what the writers were thinking when they put pen to paper. How much consideration was given to the wording of the Second Amendment? I suspect a great deal. Did they intend “people” to bear arms? If so, they should have inserted the conjunction AND between “the security of a free state” and “the right of the people to bear arms,” thus creating a compound subject and legitimizing the argument for people to bear arms. The word AND is not there, which leaves a singular, not a compound, subject. We’ll never know their thinking, but we can analyze their writing and draw an educated conclusion.

I turned to the one person I thought could tell me exactly what the Second Amendment said, using a purely analytical evaluation of the wording. Gloria Pipkin, an English teacher for many years, has written numerous educational articles, authored or co-authored a number of educational books, has been a guest speaker on the Oprah Winfrey show regarding an educational topic, and, prior to her retirement, was an editor for a major publishing company. Ms. Pipkin is arguably among the best grammarians in the nation and is considered an expert in language arts. Her response to me, and her assessment of the written words of the Second Amendment, is as follows:

“Don, it is very difficult to argue the point from a grammatical standpoint, since the sentence that comprises the Second Amendment is nearly impossible to diagram. The subject of the sentence — and therefore the subject of the Amendment — is clearly “a well-regulated militia” and modifies the subject (militia). And “the right of the people to keep and bear arms,” I would argue, is a reference to citizens who comprise the militia rather than every Tom, Dick, Mary and Sally who chooses to pick up a gun. Of course, we now have laws that do allow many citizens legally to possess guns, but is not a right automatically granted by the Second Amendment.”

In that there is a heated discussion about the Second Amendment across political lines, the NRA membership and the neutral citizens, I offer this as food for thought.

Don Cossett

Sanford