Well, Greg, it IS a legal document. And it was written to those rules.
That is a comment which is the equivalent of "why do I need to know grammar when I write?" or "Why do I need to know the rules of chess?"
An even shorter simpler answer, Greg, anyone who watches crime TV shows knows more about the law and legal method than you do.
In analyzing a statute’s text, the Court is guided by the basic principle that afrom Statutory Interpretation: General Principles and Recent Trends, Congressional Research Office, Order Code 97-589.
statute should be read as a harmonious whole, with its separate parts being
interpreted within their broader statutory context in a manner that furthers statutory
purpose. The various canons of interpretation and presumptions as to substantive
results are usually subordinated to interpretations that further a clearly expressed congressional purpose.
Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137 (1803): said that
The subsequent part of the section is mere surplusage, is entirely without meaning, if such is to be the construction…It cannot be presumed that any clause in the constitution is intended to be without effect; and therefore such construction is inadmissible, unless the words require it.
Rules of statutory interpretation regarding the proeme, AKA the first clause of the Second Amendment.
If words happen to be still dubious, we may establish their meaning from the context; with which it may be of singular use to compare a word, or a sentence, whenever they are ambiguous, equivocal, or intricate. Thus the proeme, or preamble, is often called in to help the construction of an act of parliament. Of the same nature and use is the comparison of a law with other laws, that are made by the same legislator, that have some affinity with the subject, or that expressly relate to the same point.That gets back to my comment that Article I, Section 8, Clause 16 expressly gives CONGRESS the power to ARM the militia. Looking at the document as a whole, the Civic Right (not my interpretation personally, but the one which was accepted until Heller threw the law into flux).
I also talk about a concept called desuetude, that is where laws become obsolete. Many laws have sunset clauses written into them.
In the case of the Second Amendment, the first clause announces the purpose (from Adam Freeman's Clause and Effect) :
The best way to make sense of the Second Amendment is to take away all the commas (which, I know, means that only outlaws will have commas). Without the distracting commas, one can focus on the grammar of the sentence. Professor Lund is correct that the clause about a well-regulated militia is “absolute,” but only in the sense that it is grammatically independent of the main clause, not that it is logically unrelated. To the contrary, absolute clauses typically provide a causal or temporal context for the main clause.Diagramming the Second Amendment, one should end up with something that expresses a causal link, like: “Because a well regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” In other words, the amendment is really about protecting militias, notwithstanding the arguments to the contrary.
The founders — most of whom were classically educated — would have recognized this rhetorical device as the “ablative absolute” of Latin prose. To take an example from Horace likely to have been familiar to them: “Caesar, being in command of the earth, I fear neither civil war nor death by violence” (ego nec tumultum nec mori per vim metuam, tenente Caesare terras). The main clause flows logically from the absolute clause: “Because Caesar commands the earth, I fear neither civil war nor death by violence.”
In his Rudiments of English Grammar (1790), Noah Webster writes that “a nominative case or word, joined with a participle, often stands independently of the sentence. This is called the case absolute.” Webster gives several examples, including, “They all consenting, the vote was passed.” He explains, “The words in italics are not connected with the other part of the sentence, either by agreement or government; they are therefore in the case absolute, which, in English, is always the nominative.” Grammatical independence, to Webster, is not about political self-determination, it's all about the nominative case. But he would acknowledge without hesitation that the vote would not have passed without the consent of the voters.
Webster’s readers would have had no difficulty recognizing that the Second Amendment also begins with an absolute. They would have studied the absolute in school, and they had probably been tested on it in a federalist-era version of No Child Left Behind.
Any educated federalist also would have learned in school that government, in grammar, merely refers to the case of a noun – its inflection as a nominative, dative, genitive, accusative (or, in the case of Latin, an ablative). As Robert Lowth, the author of the most widely-studied school grammar of the time, put it, “Regimen, or government, is when a word causeth a following word to be in some case, or mode.” For example, prepositions cause the following noun or pronoun to take the dative case. Or as the schoolbooks liked to say, prepositions govern the dative. That’s why we say, “Give the gun to me,” not, “Give it to I.”
Anyway, since the clause "a well regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state" announces the purpose for the right, We need to go back to the citation from Blackstone regarding the “proeme, or preamble” since it is part of a larger section that consists of “observations concerning the interpretation of laws.” 1 Blackstone at 58. One of those “observations” was: “BUT, lastly, the most universal and effectual way of discovering the true meaning of a law, when the words are dubious, is by considering the reason and spirit of it; or the cause which moved the legislator to enact it. For when this reason ceases, the laws itself ought likewise to cease with it.” 1 Blackstone at 61.
Blackstone refers to this “when the reason ceases, the law ought to cease” principle several times in the Commentaries, which would seem to indicate that he considered it a fairly important interpretive principle. 2 Blackstone at 390-91 (discussing property interests in tame and domestic animals and noting “But here the reasons of the general rule cease, and ‘cessante ratione cessat et ipsa lex‘ [The reason of the law ceasing, the law itself also ceases]“), 3 Blackstone at 219 (discussing the law of nuisance, and noting “But, where the reason ceases, the law also ceases with it : therefore it is no nuisance to erect a mill so near mine, as to draw away the custom, unless the miller also intercepts the water.”), 4 Blackstone at 3 (noting that some aspects of Britain’s criminal law “seem to want revision and amendment” and explaining that “These have chiefly arisen from too scrupulous an adherence to some rules of the antient common law, when the resons have ceased upon which those rules were founded . . . “), 4 Blackstone at 81 (discussing the law of treason, and noting that the “plain intention of this law is to guard the blood royal from any suspicion of bastardy, whereby the succession to the crown might be rendered dubious: and therefore, when this reason ceases, the law ceases with it . . .”), 4 Blackstone at 330 (discussing the plea of a former attainder, and noting “But to this general rule however, as to all others, there are some exceptions; wherein, cessante ratione, cessat et ipsa lex.”).
In other words, the phrase "a well regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state" is already the sunset clause written into the Second Amendment.
By saying that this clause is no longer applicable, you have said that the reason for the Second Amendment no longer exists. Thus, the Second Amendment died roughly the time that Story said:
And yet, though this truth would seem so clear, and the importance of a well regulated militia would seem so undeniable, it cannot be disguised,that among the American people there is a growing indifference to any system of militia discipline, and a strong disposition, from a sense of its burthens, to be rid of all regulations. How it is practicable to keep the people duly armed without some organization, it is difficult to see.There is certainly no small danger, that indifference may lead to disgust, and disgust to contempt; and thus gradually undermine all the protection intended by this clause of our national bill of rights.
That's why people like Greg and the Five fools want to see it neglected. The problem is that The Second Amendment was pretty much an irrelevance well before it was written. See Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, Book V, Chapter I (Of the Expences of the Sovereign or Commonwealth), PART I: 16-27 (Of the Expence of Defence) for a critique of the miltia system from 1775.
Anyway, Constitutional interpretation IS statutory interpretation. It is a statute, one of the first drafted by congress.
Where does this leave us? As a well constructed sentence, the Second Amendment says this: the people have a right to bear arms, inasmuch as that pertains to forming a regulated militia to secure a free state. Nothing more, nothing less. What of the right to personal self-protection? Who knows! — the Second Amendment does not talk about that. The main clause, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”, cannot be read without the preceding absolute — otherwise the Founding Fathers would have omitted that absolute. (I take it as given that they included in the Constitution only those words that they thought should be there and be interpreted; that they didn’t insert window-dressing or fluff.) Moreover, assuming the Founding Fathers were rather well educated, none of them would have misunderstood the limiting condition that the initial absolute put on the concluding main clause. Importantly it sets the topic: the militia, not the individual. We can certainly hem and haw as to the meaning of individual terms in the Second Amendment — “militia”, “well regulated”, “the people”, “security”, “infringed”, “arms” — but we should be crystal-clear as to the grammar. If one thing is manifest, it’s that the initial absolute puts a limit on the applicability of the main clause; the latter cannot and should not be interpreted without the former.
It's just that something like that is above Greg's level of intellect.
And waaayyyyyy beyond Orlin's.