Miller v. US?

can someone please explain to me what the 1939 case is all about? what is miller's argument and what is the US's argument. and how did both sides use the 2nd Amendment

1 Answer

  • JOHN B
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    First, the correct name of this case is United States v. Miller, (not Miller v. US).

    United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939), is the only Supreme Court of the United States decision to directly address the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.

    Here is what the Wikipedia article says about the holding (a unanimous decision of the US Supreme Court.):

    "At the U.S. Supreme Court

    On March 30, 1939 the Supreme Court heard the case. Attorneys for the United States argued four points:

    The NFA (National FIrearms Act) is intended as a revenue-collecting measure and therefore within the authority of the Department of the Treasury.

    The defendants transported the shotgun from Oklahoma to Arkansas, and therefore used it in interstate commerce.

    The Second Amendment protects only the ownership of military-type weapons appropriate for use in an organized militia.

    The "double barrel 12-gauge Stevens shotgun having a barrel less than 18 inches in length, bearing identification number 76230" was never used in any militia organization.

    Neither the defendants nor their legal counsel appeared at the U.S. Supreme Court.

    On May 15, 1939 the Supreme Court, in a unanimous opinion by Justice McReynolds, reversed and remanded the District Court decision. The Supreme Court declared that no conflict between the NFA and the Second Amendment had been established, writing:

    In the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a 'shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length' at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument.

    Describing the constitutional authority under which Congress could call forth state militia, the Court stated:

    With obvious purpose to assure the continuation and render possible the effectiveness of such forces the declaration and guarantee of the Second Amendment were made. It must be interpreted and applied with that end in view.

    The Court also looked to historical sources to explain the meaning of "militia" as set down by the authors of the Constitution:

    The signification attributed to the term Militia appears from the debates in the Convention, the history and legislation of Colonies and States, and the writings of approved commentators. These show plainly enough that the Militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. 'A body of citizens enrolled for military discipline.' And further, that ordinarily when called for service these men were expected to appear bearing arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the time.

    [edit] Interpretations

    Gun control advocates are quick to point out that for over six decades all the United States Circuit Courts, with very few exceptions, point to the precedence of the Miller case while rejecting legal challenges to federal firearm regulations.[2].

    Gun rights advocates claim this case as a victory because they interpret it to state that ownership of weapons for efficiency or preservation of a well regulated militia unit of the present day is specifically protected. Furthermore they frequently point out that short-barreled shotguns have been commonly used in warfare, and the statement that the judges were not made aware of this should be taken to mean exactly that.[3] Because the defense did not appear, there was arguably no way for the judges to know otherwise. Two of the justices involved in the decision had prior military experience, Justice Black as a Captain in the field artillery during WWI and Justice Frankfurter as a Major in the Army legal service, however there is no way to know if they were personally aware of the use of shotguns by American troops. During WWI, between 30,000 and 40,000 short-barreled pump action shotguns were purchased by the US Ordnance Department and saw service in the trenches and for guarding German prisoners.[4]

    Some argue that fundamental issues related to the case were never truly decided because the Supreme Court remanded the case to the federal district court "for further proceedings", which never took place -- by the time of the Supreme Court decision, Miller had been killed, and Layton made a plea bargain after the decision was handed down, (the two defendants), so there were no claimants left to continue legal proceedings.[5]

    The U.S. Supreme Court has mentioned Miller in only five subsequent cases: ....."

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