A blog of politics, law, religion, and the tricky spots where they collide.

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rationworld asked: In your post "Guns and the Constitution," you argue that the second amendment does not create an unlimited right of gun ownership. I completely agree, but what I found most interesting is the way you made your argument-you cited passages from the constitution. So, basically you cited passages from the original text to interpret the meaning of an amendment that amends and changes the original text. Isn't there some sort of logical error in that?

I don’t believe there is. Clearly, to the extent that the language of the amendments are inconsistent with the original, they are intended to amend the original. But beyond that the original text, written around the time as the amendments, would be a good place to look to for clarification.

A more obvious example would be the use of the word “Congress” in some of the amendments. Is it referring to the legislative branch as in “The Congress of the United States”? Or is it referring to a lewd act, as in “Harriet, the baker’s wife, had congress with the beast.” You could (and should) turn to Article I to figure out which Congress is being referred to.

There is a general rule of legal interpretation that new laws are intended to be read in harmony with old laws—unless there is clear evidence that they were intended to amend or supplant them.

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