Friday, June 27, 2008

Filled and Kicked the Bucket

"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 Second Amendment

If you follow the news, which you should--with a real, print newspaper--so journalism doesn't die and so I still have a profession, you know that the Supreme Court handed down a big gun rights decision yesterday, which affirmed the individual's right to gun ownership.

That is neither here nor there (or maybe it is, but I'm not going to tell you how I feel about it). But Scalia's linguistic analysis, someone pointed out to me, is fantastic.

The dissent claims that the "bear arms" phrase is "a familiar idiom; when used unadorned by any additional words, its meaning is to serve as a soldier, do military service.'"

Scalia's response in the majority opinion:

"The word 'Arms' would have two different meanings at once: 'weapons' (as the object of 'keep') and (as the object of 'bear') one half of an idiom. It would rather be like saying 'He filled and kicked the bucket' to mean 'He filled the bucket and died.' Grotesque."

Sometimes, the Supreme Court says the darnedest things.


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