Note: I wrote this 2/16/13 and just found it at the bottom of a word document. I may have sent it to a newspaper with the idea of it being a guest column. I don’t remember. This was a few months after the Sandy Hook shooting. I don’t remember if I actually sent it.

How many lines do you see? ///

All language is interpretation. I saw yesterday’s paper about the proposal of a new bill to invalidate federal gun restrictions and I bit my tongue, and then the blood made me write this. Let’s be clear. The following letter is NOT about GUNS or FREEDOM. The following IS about WORDS and MEANING. “No room for interpretation” is untenable; sometimes there is more room than others, but there is usually a little. In conversations about the Second Amendment, there is a lot.

 An elected representative in Oregon, who has concerns about gun legislation, said about the Second Amendment that: “It’s very clear and doesn’t have any room for interpretation.” This is ridiculous.

This is the Second Amendment:

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.


  • This is one sentence. It is not two sentences, or even a compound sentence with a semi-colon; it is one sentence.
  • What is a militia? What does it mean to be well-regulated?
  • Do you need to be a part of a well-regulated militia in order to keep and bear arms?
  • Who are people? Are felons people? Are kindergarteners? Are foreign visitors?
  • Do you remember who the United States recognized as people when this was written; are we interpreting this differently today?
  • What are arms? When we talk about the arms race between the Soviet Union and the United States we aren’t talking about guns, but things much larger.
  • Does the Second Amendment allow private citizens to own enriched uranium, missiles, drones? Should it?

Look at the questions above. Our legal system and our living rooms have answered, and continue to answer, many of them. And those are all acts of interpretation.

Some talk about what the Framers “clearly meant” and this is just as silly. We can’t know for sure, but we do have evidence to support certain claims and opinions. When we do this, whatever the claim or opinion is, we are engaging in an act of interpretation. Look around. There is nothing common about common sense, and there is little that is clear and not open for interpretation, which includes everything I am saying.       

I don’t think this is splitting hairs. Change “doesn’t have any room” to “little room” and the statement is much better, but also, silly. How many questions that people adamantly and passionately answer differently do you need in order to say something has room for interpretation?

How many lines? ///

The answer is clear and leaves no room for interpretation. The answer is 5. Clearly you have to read between the lines. Or, do you? No room? Don’t be silly.

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