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News & Editorials



For Immediate Release:
Contact:  Dave LaCourse (425) 454-7012
Second Amendment Foundation
12500 NE Tenth Place  ·  Bellevue, WA   98005
(425) 454-7012, FAX (425) 451-3959
October 16, 2001

BELLEVUE, WASHINGTON -– In a stunning decision, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans has crushed over 60 years of judicial misinterpretation and anti-gun rhetoric by finding that the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects an individual right.

While the court’s decision in U.S. v Emerson was to reverse and remand a lower court ruling that cleared Dr. Timothy Joe Emerson of a federal violation of the 1994 Domestic Violence Act, the 5th Circuit clearly ruled that the Second Amendment guarantees the right of an individual citizen to keep and bear private arms, “regardless of whether the particular individual is then actually a member of the militia.”

Writing for the majority, Judge William Garwood noted that the government’s long-standing interpretation of the 1939 Miller case, that the Second Amendment merely expresses a “collective right” is not supported by the actual Miller decision. He further noted that, “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.”

“This is truly a victory for firearms civil rights,” said Dave LaCourse, public affairs director for the Second Amendment Foundation. “For years, gun control extremists and constitutional revisionists have insisted that there is no individual right to keep and bear arms. We now can say with the support of the federal court that we have been right, and they have been wrong, all along.”

Acknowledging that in his special concurrence, Judge Robert M. Parker noted the Second Amendment right is “subject to reasonable regulation,” LaCourse stated: “No right is absolute, not freedom of speech or the press. The Constitution does not protect slander or libel, nor does it guarantee an absolute right to practice a religion that might include human or animal sacrifice. What remains to be determined, and what we will have to continue fighting over, is the definition of ‘reasonable regulation’.”

LaCourse noted, as did the majority, that Dr. Emerson has been acquitted of all state charges relating to his case, which stems from a divorce proceeding. He was charged with violating 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8)(C)(ii) for having a firearm while under the conditions of a civil divorce court restraining order. District Judge Sam Cummings held that this law violated Emerson’s Second Amendment right because he had not yet been convicted of any crime.

“Whether Dr. Emerson wins on the remand or appeals and carries his case ultimately to the U.S. Supreme Court,” LaCourse said, “the fact remains that the Fifth Circuit has ruled that the Second Amendment, like all other amendments referring to ‘the people’ in our Bill of Rights, protects the right of an individual citizen, not the state. The court has smashed a cornerstone of the anti-gun house of cards.”

The Second Amendment Foundation is the nation's oldest and largest tax-exempt education, research and legal action group focusing on the Constitutional right and heritage to privately own and possess firearms. SAF previously has funded successful firearms-related suits against the cities of Los Angeles, New Haven, CT, and San Francisco on behalf of American gun owners. Current projects include a damage action lawsuit against the cities suing gun makers, an amicus brief in support of the Emerson case holding that the Second Amendment is an individual right, a lawsuit against the Clinton gun and magazine ban and a lawsuit in Cincinnati supporting the right of self-defense carry of firearms.  Please visit the best Emerson webpages at

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Quotes from Emerson Ruling

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