Ammo Comma Dilemma


As most Slaw readers will know, there’s an important case coming up before the United States Supreme Court requiring the justices to interpret the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution for the first time since the 18 paragraph decision in United States v. Miller 307 U.S. 174 (1939). The new case, District of Columbia v. Heller, No. 07-290, will challenge a trio of D.C. gun control laws.

The poor Second Amendment has been the butt of a lot of tortured analysis, part of the fascinating (and to my mind somewhat bizarre) attempt of American judges and lawyers to wrest useful and elaborate meaning from a collection of 27 words — and three commas.

In today’s New York Times there’s a really good Op-Ed piece, “Clause and Effect” by Adam Freedman, that takes us through the role that these and other commas might play, and is, I’m fairly certain, the only journalistic piece I’ve ever read that brings up the Latin ablative absolute, one of the banes of my existence as a schoolboy.

We looked at commas on Slaw not all that long ago in connection with the Rogers Cable foofaraw:

Contract Drafting – The Million Dollar Comma Case and Kenneth Adams
Rogers Wins “ Comma ” Contract Dispute with Bell Aliant

But this decision is likely to be a tad more significant.


  1. Speaking of the potential to shoot oneself in the foot (and other more painful places), and probably more than just the potential unless we’re all very careful, everybody here should consider the implications of the SCC’s decision, Friday, in Bruker v Moscovitz 2007 SCC 54.

    A good discussion has begun on the Alberta Faculty of Law Blog, here.