What does a comma have to do with gun rights? Aside from the eerie likeness of a comma and a trigger, the two may have more in common than we ever realized. In fact, the Supreme Court is currently deliberating over a key test case of gun rights (i.e., the 2nd Amendment)—and the decision will rest largely on how they read commas.
Here's the 2nd Amendment as it appears in the US Constitution:
“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.”
Three pesky commas—and how to read them? Before reading on, make up your mind.
Gun rights advocates read the commas as "throat clearing"—front porch, if you will. They believe the first two phrases—up until the word "state" are unrelated to what follows. Therefore, they argue, the framers of the Constitution clearly protect the "right to bear arms."
Gun rights opponents read those first two phrases as modifying the right. In other words, they translate the Amendment this way: because militias are necessary for a free state, individual people must keep and bear arms. Since we have a well-funded militia, there is no need for—no necessary guarantee of—people bearing arms.
Wherever you come down on this issue, the pen—the lowly punctuation mark—may, indeed, be mightier than the sword. Maybe that's what the Irish poet Seamus Heaney had in mind when he wrote his poem "Digging" which opens this way: "Between my finger and my thumb/This squat pen rests, snug as a gun." (At least I think there's a comma in that last line!)
For a further explication, read the link of a recent New York Times Op-ed on this issue.