HISTORICAL U.S. SUPREME COURT FIREARMS CASES/DECISIONS
United States v. Cruikshank et al. (from 1876, arguably the worst decision ever made by the United States Supreme Court, still used today to keep the 2nd Amendment from being incorporated as a right in many states)
Presser v. Illinois, 116 U.S. 252 (1886). Although the Supreme Court affirmed the holding in Cruikshank that the Second Amendment, standing alone, applied only to action by the federal government, it nonetheless found the states without power to infringe upon the right to keep and bear arms, holding that “the States cannot, even laying the constitutional provision in question out of view, prohibit the people from keeping and bearing arms, as so to deprive the United States of their rightful resource for maintaining the public security and disable the people from performing their duty to the general government.”
Miller v. Texas, 153 U.S. 535 (1894). In this case, the Court confirmed that it had never addressed the issue of the Second Amendment applying to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. This case remains the last word on this subject by the Court.
Lewis v. United States, 445 U.S. 95 (1980). Lewis recognized–in summarizing the holding of Miller, supra, as “the Second Amendment guarantees no right to keep and bear a firearm that does not have ‘some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia'” (emphasis added)–that Miller had focused upon the type of firearm. Further, Lewis was concerned only with whether the provision of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 which prohibits the possession of firearms by convicted felons (codified in 18 U.S.C. 922(g) in 1986) violated the Second Amendment. Thus, since convicted felons historically were and are subject to the loss of numerous fundamental rights of citizenship –including the right to vote, hold office, and serve on juries–it was not erroneous for the Court to have concluded that laws prohibiting the possession of firearms by a convicted felon “are neither based upon constitutionally suspect criteria, nor do they trench upon any constitutionally protected liberties.”
United States v. Verdugo-Urquirdez, 110 S. Ct. 3039 (1990). This case involved the meaning of the term “the people” in the Fourth Amendment. The Court unanimously held that the term “the people” in the Second Amendment had the same meaning as in the Preamble to the Constitution and in the First, Fourth, and Ninth Amendments, i.e., that “the people” means at least all citizens and legal aliens while in the United States. This case thus resolves any doubt that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right.
Heller v. District of Columbia. Answering a 217-year old constitutional question, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to have a gun, at least in one’s home. The Court, splitting 5-4, struck down a District of Columbia ban on handgun possession. Although times have changed since 1791, Justice Antonin Scalia said for the majority, “it is not the role of this Court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct.” Read the full Heller decicion here.
Caetano v. Massachusetts. The Supreme Court orders the MA Supreme Judicial Court to revisit an unconstitutional decision in a case regarding stun gun possession. The Court has held that “the Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding,”
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