Michael, List,

The U.S. Supreme Court is the Interpretive Branch of the U.S. Government
and the phenomenon we have witnessed since the turn of the millennium is
that powerful enough special interest groups can purchase their preferred
interpretations of a written constitution of laws and have their agenda
enforced -- if they have enough money and exert their power at the right
points of leverage in the Executive and Legislative Branches.  That is a
distortion of the whole idea of a democratic republic but it is one U.S.
citizens will have to address while they still have the power to do so.

So I see this issue as a symptom of a much more general dysfunction
of government that the mere issue of rights that may or may not be
guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment.

Here is one take on the Bigger Picture I wrote out a few years back:

The Place Where Three Wars Meet



On 2/23/2018 4:46 AM, Michael Shapiro wrote:
Dear Peirce-L subscribers,

Gary Richmond was kind enough to post my recent Flash Mailing to the subscribers
of my blog, languagelore.net, on this site, but I'm rerposting it here in order
to give you the ful original, as follows:

        Once again we who are Americans are confronted by the atrocity of a mass
shooting, this time in Parkland, Florida. Although some voices in the media have
been raised already regarding the Second Amendment, I see the sole solution in
the repeal by Congress of the Second Amendment––admittedly, something that seems
far out of reach now but may eventually be achievable under powerful pressure
from the voting public.

Below (to remind you) is my blog post from 2012 that lays the groundwork for a
repeal. It should be remembered that Justice Antonin Scalia, the chief
malefactor in the Supreme Court decision, /District of Columbia v. Heller/, 554
U.S. 570(2008), which last upheld the Second Amendment, is currently deceased
and not likely to rise again!

*Element Order and the Grammar of the Second Amendment (December 24, 2012 [from

The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution states: “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.” Gun owners assert a right
to own and use firearms on the basis of the main clause of the amendment. In the
so-called Heller case, the United States Supreme Court has sustained their
right, ignoring in 2007 the well-reasoned amicus brief filed by professional
linguists that argued that the grammar of the amendment does not allow such an
interpretation. Here is a summary (from Dennis Baron, “Guns and Grammar: the
Linguistics of the Second Amendment”

“In our amicus brief in the Heller case we attempted to demonstrate,

              • that the Second Amendment must be read in its entirety, and that
its initial
              absolute functions as a subordinate adverbial that establishes a
              connection with the amendment’s main clause;
              • that the vast preponderance of examples show that the phrase
/bear arms/ refers specifically to carrying weapons in the context of a
well-regulated militia;
              • that the word /militia /itself refers to a federally-authorized,
collective fighting
              force, drawn only from the subgroup of citizens eligible for
service in such a body;
              • and that as the linguistic evidence makes clear, the militia
clause is inextricably bound to the right to bear arms clause.
              18^th -century readers, grammarians, and lexicographers understood
the Second Amendment in this way, and it is how linguists have understood it as

What is paramount in the correct interpretation is something Baron et al. do not
discuss, namely the order of the two clauses. The participial first clause, even
in 18^th -century English, could just as well have been placed second, in a
familiar pattern that can be seen, for instance, in a sentence like: “There will
be no swimming today at the recreation center, the pool being closed on
Mondays.” Clearly, there is a cause-and-effect relation between the fact of no
swimming and the particular day of the week, regardless of the placement of the
two clauses vis-à-vis each other, but what  is at stake here is a form of
grammatical government that is best captured by their ORDER, which is to say
their HIERARCHICAL relationship. The first clause occurs where it does because
the writer/utterer deems it to be MORE IMPORTANT than the second clause.

The same obtains in the element order of the Second Amendment. The word
/militia/ of the first clause governs—is hierarchically superordinate to—the
phrase /the right of the people to keep and bear arms/. The framers of the
Constitution had the grammatical option to invert the two clauses but did not.
The element order speaks for itself, rendering /militia/ the pragmatistic scope
(i. e., in the Peircean sense of the philosophical doctrine of pragmatism) under
which /right to keep and bear arms/ is restricted.



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