Further Notes on the Second Amendment

First of all, I am even more convinced of my interpretation of the amendment’s text: it grants US citizens the right to be protected from insurrection or invasion (conducted, strictly speaking, against our government) by a group regulated by the government it protects. That is the only legitimate ‘right’ any US citizen has to a firearm: are you employed by the US government for the purpose of defense? If yes: here’s your weapon, but also get ready to become well-regulated (i.e. boot camp). If no: you have no legitimate constitutional right to a firearm.

[See On Commas and Guns for my previous philological and neurodivergent analysis of the Second Amendment.]

Three further notes:

1. In case you missed it as I did: a few weeks ago Jamie Raskin published a guest essay in the New York Times on the second amendment, wherein he makes the historical and contextual case supporting my own earlier neurodivergent reading based on a philological argument. I happened to hear him talking about this editorial briefly on the latest episode of The New Yorker: Politics and More, featuring an interview with Raskin on the state of our democracy and the hearings. The crucial point is logical: the US Constitution does not authorize anyone to overthrow the government it structures. The document protects those governmental structures at all costs. There is never a legitimate reason, according to the Constitution, to overthrow the government.

2. Pardon me while I do that Classical Philologist Thing with the ancient etymologies again… but… in fact ‘militia’ is borrowed from Latin: it is an abstract noun derived from milites ‘soldiers,’ and means essentially ‘soldiery.’ In the vast majority of its meanings, militia refers to things to do with formal (i.e. state-regulated) warfare: It is the process of soldiering, i.e. warfare, campaigning, combat. The word is also used to designate a group of soldiers under a formal commander on campaign in the interests of the state, in which case militia is glossed as ‘the soldiery, military.’ It does not ever mean an extra-constitutional group of self-authorized militants, whatever their alleged allegiance to their government. (Eg, the Proud Boys claiming to be on stand-by on January 6th, 2021, allegedly waiting for the outgoing President to invoke the Insurrection Act: nothing about that is a valid defense.)

I cannot stress enough the importance of the Hellenic and Roman origins of the words in any document composed by the aristocratic patricians who framed our society in their own interests: just like every other patrician since the Renaissance, they too knew Classical Greek and Latin and had had a thorough education in Greek and Roman political history. We have a Republic, for example, because the Romans had a Republic, and our founding patricians favored it as a model over Athenian (i.e. actual) democracy, though over time our Republic has grown increasingly democratic, as Raskin notes as well, despite the best efforts of our founding patricians.

Anyway, the word ‘militia’ may have been in their heads from a young age as an English word, but as boys they had started Latin and Greek simultaneously with their other earliest studies, so that by the time they came to think and then write about a new form of government, this word undoubtedly at least carried the Latin sense, if it was not actually felt as a blended word. It’s unavoidable in learning Latin and/or Greek that most English words will be permanently shifted toward the words’ original ancient meanings. Militia is a formally appointed and well-regulated military body, as the Second Amendment explains, and so ultimately ‘militia’ is a reference to our Armed Forces (which, by the way, whence the name: these are the groups that have the constitutional right to bear arms).

3. Just what exactly is the difference—melanin aside—between an inner-city gang and the NRA-favored idea of ‘militia’ as any ragtag band of half-disciplined thrill seekers who misguidedly believe they have a grievance with the US Federal Government? Nothing. Not a damn thing. So if all these disgruntled neoconservative folks are going to be screaming that they’re a militia and so they have rights, well… sounds like individuals accused of gang-related crimes would have a new defense: they’re a militia, they could say, so they’re protected under the Second Amendment.

But that is not what the amendment guarantees. Rather, it is merely providing for our Armed Forces to be armed; it does not allow just anyone to claim themselves to be an armed force.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


Make a one-time contribution to what I do

Make a monthly donation to what I do

Make an annual donation to what I do

Anything donated helps fund my creative endeavors!


Or enter a custom amount


Thank you SO much!!

Thank you SO much!!

Thank you SO much!!

DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly
%d bloggers like this: