Joseph Reisert’s latest column (“Scalia ranks among towering justices,” Feb. 20) celebrates the career of Justice Antonin Scalia, famous for insisting on the “original understanding” of the Constitution.

But I’m still protesting Scalia’s opinion, summarized by Reisert, that the Second Amendment as originally understood “means that people have the right to keep and use firearms.” There’s more to it than that.

The Second Amendment has just this one sentence: “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 first part of the sentence gives the premise for the second; the second is the conclusion of the first. It’s an absolute construction, one that English inherited from Latin. In less formal style, the Second Amendment would read, “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.”

I remember when those two phrases were separated by the Supreme Court. The “Militia” part vanished, and the “Arms” part, as newly understood (that is, minus its rationale), was enshrined in our state constitution. I don’t see that as a good example of “original understanding.”

Charles Ferguson

East Vassalboro

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