Friday, 8 January 2016

The Second Amendment

Just as thirty children trying to get on with their studies can have them disrupted by one ill-brought-up brat clamouring for attention, so the rest of the world has been distracted from its serious concerns by the Americans squabbling over their lethal toys.
There has been much talk of the second amendment, which most people seem to think enshrines ‘The right to bear arms’. Those five words are usually the only ones quoted.
But what does the second amendment actually say? Absurdly for a document that has the same status for an American redneck as the Koran has for a Muslim fundamentalist, there seems to be no recognized Ur-Text for the American constitution: one can choose between several versions. Sure, most say more or less the same things, but lawyers and killers thrive on the ‘More or less.’
The version given in Akhil Reed Amar’s huge and authoritative study ‘America’s Constitution’ is:
‘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, in spite of the extra capitals and over-punctuation typical of the ill-educated, is crystal clear: the right to bear arms is conditional on the need for a militia. But America now has a police force, (albeit one that keeps shooting unarmed black people, but that’s another story). It no longer needs — as it may have done when the second amendment was first written — a militia.


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