Parsing the Meaning of the 2nd Amendment

Re “Court Reaffirms Ruling That Gun Ownership Is Not a Right,” May 7: Judge Andrew Kleinfeld’s dissent on the recent court ruling hinges on the syntax of the 2nd Amendment, claiming that “the operative words of the amendment syntactically protect the right of ‘the people,’ not the ‘militia’ to keep and bear arms.” Syntactically and historically, the word “people” is not plural for person, but refers to a collective body of persons.

Moreover, when taken in the context of the entire sentence in which this phrase occurs, it is obvious that the authors used “people” to refer to the collective, rather than the individual, for the statement says, “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.” I agree. Military-style weapons should be in the hands of a “well-regulated militia” and not in the hands of every trigger-happy yahoo.

Kathy Harty



The majority ruling by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is very puzzling to me. The Bill of Rights was enacted to protect individual rights. It appears to me that the collective interpretation of the 2nd Amendment flies in the face of the reasons for the Bill of Rights -- protection of individual liberties. I agree with the dissenters. Individual liberties can be put at risk by a tyrannical government if the citizens have no way to defend them.

Larry Cohen