In the wake of the massacre in Aurora, Colo., let’s not argue over gun control. It’s far too controversial. Besides, we have the Second Amendment in our Constitution. It states: “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 version was passed by both the House and the Senate at the end of the eighteenth century.
However, as a scribe named William Lambert copied the document onto official parchment, he inserted a comma and changed some capitalization so that the version that hangs in the National Archives reads: “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.”
Both versions are used in official government publications. Although the difference between the two may seem to be inconsequential, it has created a rift between those who favor gun control and those who claim a constitutional right to have guns. In fact, there are now three interpretations of the amendment.
The first interpretation holds that “the right to keep and bear arms” belongs to the people collectively, rather than to individuals, because the right’s only purpose is to enable states to maintain a militia. In other words, it is not a guarantee for the individual...