A Rare Commodity - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1977358

A Rare Commodity

“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.”

The single sentence above is the full and complete text of the Second Amendment, ratified on December 15, 1791.

It is difficult to find an individual right to bear arms in that complex sentence.

Let’s change the gerund clause into a more current English version, such as “Because a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state …”

Even without that simplification, the sentence as written consists of a qualifying clause (the militia being essential to defense of country) and another clause that is dependent on the qualifier (the right to keep and bear arms).

Justice Antonin Scalia called himself an originalist. The theory of originalism treats the Constitution as fixed and unmovable and gives it the meaning that its words were understood to bear at the time they were written.

In December 1791, the state-of-the-art firearm was a flintlock musket firing paper cartridges loaded with gunpowder and a lead ball. A soldier could fire, at most, two or three shots a minute. The smoothbore flintlock also lacked accuracy.

Scalia, the originalist, wrote the majority opinion in the decision that wiped out the qualifying clause (the gerund clause about the need for a militia). The 5-4 decision in 2008 held: “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess firearm unconnected with services in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes such as defense within the home.”

I am far from being a constitutional scholar. However, I have both professional and intellectual respect for words, their meaning and immense power.

Therefore, I am profoundly offended by the word games played by today’s Republican senators, bought by gun manufacturers and their lobbies, and by the corrupt National Rifle Association, and dictated to by Mitch McConnell, the minority leader.

The stench of senatorial hypocrisy and greedy chicanery has risen from the Senate right into the current blatantly politicized Supreme Court: Justice Samuel Alito’s recent draft decision wiped out five decades of women’s constitutional right to abortion, leaning on wisdoms from England in the 1500s!

If you have respect for the English language and for logical reasoning, you must feel shocked by the illiteracy evident both in Scalia’s conclusions and betrayed by the illiteracy in Alito’s draft decision.

I used to tell my children that there is nothing as powerful as truth. But not in this country. Not anymore. Truth and honesty have been replaced by lies and corruption in our nation’s capital.

No wonder that truth has become a rare commodity in our own local governments as well.

Evelyn Konrad

Attorney at law