In order to better explain my incredulity, let me start with a simple legal thought experiment:
Suppose there is a law that states "Driving near schools at speeds above 25mph is prohibited." Now, an animal rights group argues that this law is ambiguous: the word "school" could mean either a building where children are educated or a group of fish. This being a contrived example, there is no way of knowing whether such argument has any merit to it -- but let's presume the judge decides that "in the absence of any clarifying language, we must assume that both points of view have the right to exist, and therefore the law prohibits both driving near children educational institutions, and near groups of fish or other sea animals".
Ok, but what if the law did include some clarifying language. Suppose the law was instead "Safety of children being of utmost importance to our society, driving near schools at speeds above 25mph is prohibited". In this case, I would expect the argument of the animal rights group to fail. After all, replacing "school" with "group of fish" makes the sentence grammatically invalid: two completely unrelated clauses within one sentence. However, if the law stated instead "Since loud noises cause suffering to fish and marine animals, driving near schools at speeds above 25mph is prohibited", then the situation would be quite the opposite: now the judge will be forced to conclude that the law only applies to fish schools, not to children.
Sorry for this lengthy preamble, let's get to the actual question. The Second Amendment of the US Constitution 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.
The word which I find ambiguous here is the second "the". Being the most common word in English, it obviously has multiple meanings, but let's focus on just 2:
- The third meaning, "used to make generalized reference to something rather than identifying a particular instance". In this case "the people" would mean either people in general, or it could also refer to the citizens of US only.
- The first meaning, "denoting one or more people or things already mentioned or assumed to be common knowledge". In this meaning, a synonym for "the" is "this" or "these", i.e. "the people" would mean "these people".
Having these 2 competitive definitions of "the people", let's replace each of them with its synonym and see which one makes better sense:
A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of all citizens of the United States to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.
A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of these people people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.
Now, one of these forms is perfectly reasonable. The other consists of two completely unrelated clauses joined by a comma -- a comma splice -- which is a serious grammatical error (a first-degree felony according to Roger Jones).
So my question is this: why did the US Supreme Court decide in Columbia v. Heller to defend the grammatically questionable reading of the Second Amendment, and disregard the logical one? Why commit a "grammatical felony"?