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Quotes from U.S. v. Emerson Ruling


No. 99-10331

The following are exact extracts from the above-mentioned ruling.
Issued October 16, 2001

Miller Does Not Support Collective Right Model

We conclude that Miller does not support the government's collective rights or sophisticated collective rights approach to the Second Amendment. Indeed, to the extent that Miller sheds light on the matter it cuts against the government's position. Nor does the government cite any other authority binding on this panel which mandates acceptance of its position in this respect. We turn, therefore, to an analysis of history and wording of the Second Amendment for guidance. In undertaking this analysis, we are mindful that almost all of our sister circuits have rejected any individual rights view of the Second Amendment. However, it respectfully appears to us that all or almost all of these opinions seem to have done so either on the erroneous assumption that Miller resolved that issue or without sufficient articulated examination of the history and text of the Second Amendment.


There is no evidence in the text of the Second Amendment, or any other part of the Constitution, that the words "the people" have a different connotation within the Second Amendment than when employed elsewhere in the Constitution. In fact, the text of the Constitution, as a whole, strongly suggests that the words "the people" have precisely the same meaning within the Second Amendment as without. And, as used throughout the Constitution, "the people" have "rights" and "powers," but federal and state governments only have "powers" or "authority", never "rights."


Several other Supreme Court opinions speak of the Second Amendment in a manner plainly indicating that the right which it secures to "the people" is an individual or personal, not a collective or quasi-collective, right in the same sense that the rights secured to "the people" in the First and Fourth Amendments, and the rights secured by the other provisions of the first eight amendments, are individual or personal, and not collective or quasi-collective, rights. See, e.g., Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 112 S.Ct. 2791, 2805 (1992); Moore v. City of East Cleveland, 97 S.Ct. 1932, 1937 (1977);(26) Robertson v. Baldwin, supra (see quotation in note 17 supra); Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. (19 How) 393, 417, 450-51, 15 L.Ed. 691, 705, 719 (1856). See also Justice Black's concurring opinion in Duncan v. Louisiana, 88 S.Ct. 1444, 1456 (1968).(27)

It appears clear that "the people," as used in the Constitution, including the Second Amendment, refers to individual Americans.


The plain meaning of the right of the people to keep arms is that it is an individual, rather than a collective, right and is not limited to keeping arms while engaged in active military service or as a member of a select militia such as the National Guard.


Taken as a whole, the text of the Second Amendment's substantive guarantee is not suggestive of a collective rights or sophisticated collective rights interpretation, and the implausibility of either such interpretation is enhanced by consideration of the guarantee's placement within the Bill of Rights and the wording of the other articles thereof and of the original Constitution as a whole.


In sum, to give the Second Amendment's preamble [A well regulated militia...] its full and proper due there is no need to torture the meaning of its substantive guarantee into the collective rights or sophisticated collective rights model which is so plainly inconsistent with the substantive guarantee's text, its placement within the bill of rights and the wording of the other articles thereof and of the original constitution as a whole.


Turning to the history of the Second Amendment's adoption, we find nothing inconsistent with the conclusion that as ultimately proposed by Congress and ratified by the states it was understood and intended in accordance with the individual rights model as set out above.


We reject the collective rights and sophisticated collective rights models for interpreting the Second Amendment. We hold, consistent with Miller, that it protects the right of individuals, including those not then actually a member of any militia or engaged in active military service or training, to privately possess and bear their own firearms, such as the pistol involved here, that are suitable as personal, individual weapons and are not of the general kind or type excluded by Miller. However, because of our holding that section 922(g)(8), as applied to Emerson, does not infringe his individual rights under the Second Amendment we will not now further elaborate as to the exact scope of all Second Amendment rights.


We agree with the district court that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to privately keep and bear their own firearms that are suitable as individual, personal weapons and are not of the general kind or type excluded by Miller, regardless of whether the particular individual is then actually a member of a militia.


Printer Version

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. Benjamin Franklin Historical Review of Pennsylvania. [Note: This sentence was often quoted in the Revolutionary period. It occurs even so early as November, 1755, in an answer by the Assembly of Pennsylvania to the Governor, and forms the motto of Franklin's "Historical Review," 1759, appearing also in the body of the work. Frothingham: Rise of the Republic of the United States, p. 413. ]

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