Statement of Violence
Policy Center in Response to Supreme Court Refusal to Hear Second Amendment
Today the Supreme
Court denied review in two cases in which criminal defendants had asked
the high court to strike down federal gun laws on Second Amendment grounds.
In briefs filed in Emerson v. United States and Haney v. United
States, the Ashcroft Justice Department announced a 180-degree shift
in the Department's interpretation of the Second Amendment, arguing for
an expansive individual rights interpretation of the Amendment. At the
same time, the Justice Department asked the Court to reject the defendants'
petitions for review. In response to the Supreme Court's action today,
Mathew Nosanchuk, the Violence Policy Center's litigation director and
legislative counsel, issued the following statement:
Court action is a victory for public safety and security and a defeat
for the National Rifle Association and gun criminals, who have been
chomping at the bit for the Supreme Court to overrule its own precedent
on the Second Amendment. By declining to hear the Emerson and
Haney cases, the Supreme Court�as it has done repeatedly for
decades�once again refused to reopen the question of whether the Second
Amendment protects an expansive individual right to keep and bear arms
that is unrelated in any way to service in the �well regulated militia'
cited in the Second Amendment. In its unanimous 1939 decision in United
States v. Miller, the Court held unambiguously that the �obvious
purpose' of the Second Amendment was to �assure the continuation and
render possible the effectiveness' of the militia, and �[i]t must be
interpreted and applied with that end in view.'
by the Supreme Court reaffirms, the Ashcroft Justice Department's policy
shift notwithstanding, that the Miller decision remains the law
of the land�and it continues to be followed in the lower courts. The
Ashcroft Justice Department completely ignored Miller in its
Supreme Court briefs, and the NRA has argued that Miller means
something other than what it says. If the lower courts have been misreading
Miller for 63 years�as the NRA and pro-gun advocates believe�the
Supreme Court has had ample opportunity to correct the error. Once again,
it has declined to do so.
Justices do not share Attorney General John Ashcroft's enthusiasm for
reinterpreting the Second Amendment. Unfortunately, criminal defendants
and the gun lobby can be expected to rely on the non-binding and ill-advised
statements contained in the Ashcroft Justice Department's Emerson
and Haney briefs in their efforts to overturn our nation's gun
The Violence Policy Center is a
national non-profit educational foundation that conducts research on violence
in America and works to develop violence-reduction policies and proposals.
The Center examines the role of firearms in America, conducts research
on firearms violence, and explores new ways to decrease firearm-related
death and injury.
Monday, June 10, 2002
Violence Policy Center
(202) 822-8200 x105