Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty made good on his vow to contest the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruling that the city’s 1976 handgun ban is unconstitutional, because the Second Amendment applies to individuals as well as to militias – and the Supreme Court is now considering whether to take up the issue of what the Founding Fathers meant by these words: “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.”

Should the high court decide to grant review, Legal Times reports that its ruling may not hinge on the actual words comprising the Second Amendment, but to the commas that separate those words into clauses:

Another suddenly intense debate is enveloping the case – this one over what all those commas in the Second Amendment meant in late 18th-century America.

It may sound way beyond trivial, but it’s not: The grammar war is under way.

You can blame the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit for igniting this esoteric debate. It ruled on March 9 that because of the Second Amendment’s second comma, the first half of the amendment – the militia half – is basically a throat-clearing preface that does not qualify the individual right to bear arms that the second half protects.

Judge Laurence Silberman, who wrote the 2-1 decision, went on to conclude that the district’s handgun ban violates that individual right.

Some grammarians believe that commas were often used to signal a breath pause for orators – which means there would be more of them than would be used today, and that they may not necessarily mean anything. Others argue that the commas divide the sentence into dependent and independent clauses – the trouble is there is sharp disagreement over which clause is dependent and which is independent.

Complicating matters even further the Second Amendment is a comma chameleon: The version that Congress approved in 1789 had three commas, while several states ratified a two-comma version.

The Stiletto shudders to think that her Second Amendment rights are dependent on the placement of a comma – especially considering what’s going on in Venezuela these days.

Note: The Stiletto writes about politics and other stuff at The Stiletto Blog.

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