OCTOBER 17, 2001
We have heard from many of you asking Bullet Points to summarize in plain-English yesterday’s 75 page legal decision in United States v. Emerson, which contains more than its fair share of legalese. Because of the decision’s historic importance, we have decided to issue this Special Edition of Bullet Points that we hope explains why the decision is important.
· U.S. APPEALS COURT FINDS SECOND AMENDMENT GUARANTEES AN INDIVIDUAL RIGHT TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS . . .
In a landmark ruling, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans held yesterday that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the right of individuals to keep and bear arms. The court rejected the arguments of the Clinton administration’s Justice Department that the Second Amendment does not apply to individuals but merely recognizes the right of the state to arm its militia.
The case, United States v. Emerson, arose out of a Texas divorce suit in which a restraining order had been issued against the husband, Dr. Timothy Joe Emerson, who was subsequently charged with violating a federal law that prohibits the possession of firearms while under such a court order. The trial court dismissed the charges against Emerson saying the statute’s ban on possession of a firearm while a restraining order was in place, violated, among other rights, the doctor’s Second Amendment rights. The Janet Reno Justice Department appealed. While the appeals court ultimately upheld the validity of the federal law - finding that it did not infringe upon Dr. Emerson’s rights - the decision is the strongest ruling to date interpreting the Second Amendment.
The Court said the words ‘the right of the people’ in the Second Amendment had the same meaning as when used in the First and Fourth Amendments and, like those Amendments in the Bill of Rights, secures an individual or personal right not a collective or states’ right. The Court rejected “the collective rights and sophisticated collective rights models for interpreting the Second Amendment. We hold, …that [the Second Amendment] protects the rights 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 . . .” The Court went on to say “that does not mean that those rights may never be made subject to any limited, narrowly tailored specific exceptions or restrictions for particular cases that are reasonable and not inconsistent with right of Americans generally to individually keep and bear their private arms as historically understood in this country.”
“The Court’s decision is a very thorough and scholarly analyzes of the actual text, history and jurisprudence of the Second Amendment. It reaffirms that the Second Amendment is a cherished civil liberty of equal importance to our nation as the First and Fourth Amendments,” said Robert T. Delfay, president and chief executive officer of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Inc. “Every American, not just firearms owners, should applaud this reaffirmation of the principles and beliefs of our founding fathers.” A copy of The United States vs. Emerson http://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/opinions/pub/99/99-10331-cr0.htm
can be viewed here.
The Brady Center For The Prevention of Gun Violence had filed a “friend of the court” brief supporting the Janet Reno Justice Department’s misguided interpretation of the Second Amendment, the latest in a continuing string of defeats for the Brady Center in their campaign to destroy the firearms industry and the Second Amendment.