United States v. Miller, No. 696

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtMcREYNOLDS
Citation59 S.Ct. 816,83 L.Ed. 1206,307 U.S. 174
PartiesUNITED STATES v. MILLER et al
Docket NumberNo. 696
Decision Date15 May 1939

307 U.S. 174
59 S.Ct. 816
83 L.Ed. 1206
UNITED STATES

v.

MILLER et al.

No. 696.
Argued March 30, 1939.
Decided May 15, 1939.

Appeal from the District Court of the United States for the Western District of Arkansas.

Page 175

Mr. Gordon Dean, of Washington, D.C., for the United States.

No appearance for appellees.

Mr. Justice McREYNOLDS delivered the opinion of the Court.

An indictment in the District Court Western District Arkansas, charged that Jack Miller and Frank Layton 'did unlawfully, knowingly, wilfully, and feloniously transport in interstate commerce from the town of Claremore in the State of Oklahoma to the town of Siloam Springs in the State of Arkansas a certain firearm, to-wit, a double barrel 12-gauge Stevens shotgun having a barrel less than 18 inches in length, bearing identification number 76230, said defendants, at the time of so transporting said firearm in interstate commerce as aforesaid, not having registered said firearm as required by Section 1132d of Title 26, United States Code, 26 U.S.C.A. § 1132d (Act of June 26, 1934, c. 757, Sec. 5, 48 Stat. 1237), and not having in their possession a stamp-affixed written order for said firearm as provided by Section 1132c, Title 26, United States Code, 26 U.S.C.A. § 1132c (June 26, 1934, c. 757, Sec. 4, 48 Stat. 1237) and the regulations issued under authority of the said Act of Congress known as the 'National Firearms Act' approved June 26, 1934, contrary to the form of the statute in such case made and provided, and against the peace and dignity of the United States.'1

Page 176

A duly interposed demurrer alleged: The National Firearms Act is not a revenue measure but an attempt to usurp police power reserved to the States, and is therefore unconstitutional. Also, it offends the inhibition of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, U.S.C.A.—'A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.'

Page 177

The District Court held that section 11 of the Act violates the Second Amendment. It accordingly sustained the demurrer and quashed the indictment.

The cause is here by direct appeal.

Considering Sonzinsky v. United States, 1937, 300 U.S. 506, 513, 57 S.Ct. 554, 81 L.Ed. 772, and what was ruled in sundry causes aris-

Page 178

ing under the Harrison Narcotic Act2—United States v. Jin Fuey Moy, 1916, 241 U.S. 394, 36 S.Ct. 658, 60 L.Ed. 1061, Ann.Cas.1917D, 854; United States v. Doremus, 1919, 249 U.S. 86, 94, 39 S.Ct. 214, 63 L.Ed. 493; Linder v. United States, 1925, 268 U.S. 5, 45 S.Ct. 446, 69 L.Ed. 819, 39 A.L.R. 229; Alston v. United States, 1927, 274 U.S. 289, 47 S.Ct. 634, 71 L.Ed. 1052; Nigro v. United States, 1928, 276 U.S. 332, 48 S.Ct. 388, 72 L.Ed. 600—the objection that the Act usurps police power reserved to the States is plainly untenable.

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. Certainly it is not within judicial notice that this weapon is any part of the ordinary military equipment or that its use could contribute to the common defense. Aymette v. State of Tennessee, 2 Humph., Tenn., 154, 158.

The Constitution as originally adopted granted to the Congress power—'To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.' U.S.C.A.Const. art. 1, § 8. 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 Nilitia which the States were expected to maintain and train is set in contrast with Troops which they

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were forbidden to keep without the consent of Congress. The sentiment of the time strongly disfavored standing armies; the common view was that adequate defense of country and laws could be secured through the Militia—civilians primarily, soldiers on occasion.

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.

Blackstone's Commentaries, Vol. 2, Ch. 13, p. 409 points out 'that king Alfred first settled a national militia in this kingdom' and traces the subsequent development and use of such forces.

Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, Book V. Ch. 1, contains an extended account of the Militia. It is there said: 'Men of republican principles have been jealous of a standing army as dangerous to liberty.' 'In a militia, the character of the labourer, artificer, or tradesman, predominates over that of the soldier: in a standing army, that of the soldier predominates over every other character; and in this distinction seems to consist the essential difference between those two different species of military force.'

'The American Colonies In The 17th Century', Osgood, Vol. 1, ch. XIII, affirms in reference to the early system of defense in New England—

'In all the colonies, as in England, the militia system was based on the principle of the assize of arms. This implied the general obligation of all adult male inhabitants to possess arms, and, with certain exceptions, to

Page 180

cooperate in the work of defence.'...

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361 practice notes
  • Colo. Outfitters Ass'n v. Hickenlooper, Civil Action No. 13–cv–01300–MSK–MJW
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Court of Colorado
    • June 26, 2014
    ...protect an individual's right to possess and use firearms. Courts were guided by the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174, 179, 59 S.Ct. 816, 83 L.Ed. 1206 (1939), which held that a right protected by the Second Amendment required “some reasonable relationship t......
  • Lewis v. United States, No. 78-1595
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • February 27, 1980
    ...upon constitutionally suspect criteria, no do they trench upon any constitutionally protected liberties. See United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174, 178 (1939) (the Second Amendment guarantees no right to keep and bear a firearm that does not have "some reasonable relationship to the 9. The ......
  • Burton v. Sills, No. A--20
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • December 16, 1968
    ...116 U.S. 252, 6 S.Ct. 580, 29 L.Ed. 615 (1886); Miller v. Texas, 153 U.S. 535, 14 S.Ct. 874, 38 L.Ed. 812 (1894); United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174, 59 S.Ct. 816, 83 L.Ed. 1206 (1939); Cases v. United States, 131 F.2d 916 (1st Page 98 Cir. 1942), cert. denied, 319 U.S. 770, 63 S.Ct. [24......
  • Engblom v. Carey, No. 79 Civ. 4785 (RWS).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • September 2, 1981
    ...infringed "has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia...." United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174, 178, 59 S.Ct. 816, 818, 83 L.Ed. 1206 (1939). Whether or not plaintiffs' possession of these weapons meets that criterion, the equally well e......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
354 cases
  • Colo. Outfitters Ass'n v. Hickenlooper, Civil Action No. 13–cv–01300–MSK–MJW
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Court of Colorado
    • June 26, 2014
    ...protect an individual's right to possess and use firearms. Courts were guided by the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174, 179, 59 S.Ct. 816, 83 L.Ed. 1206 (1939), which held that a right protected by the Second Amendment required “some reasonable relationship t......
  • Lewis v. United States, No. 78-1595
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • February 27, 1980
    ...upon constitutionally suspect criteria, no do they trench upon any constitutionally protected liberties. See United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174, 178 (1939) (the Second Amendment guarantees no right to keep and bear a firearm that does not have "some reasonable relationship to the 9. The ......
  • Burton v. Sills, No. A--20
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • December 16, 1968
    ...116 U.S. 252, 6 S.Ct. 580, 29 L.Ed. 615 (1886); Miller v. Texas, 153 U.S. 535, 14 S.Ct. 874, 38 L.Ed. 812 (1894); United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174, 59 S.Ct. 816, 83 L.Ed. 1206 (1939); Cases v. United States, 131 F.2d 916 (1st Page 98 Cir. 1942), cert. denied, 319 U.S. 770, 63 S.Ct. [24......
  • Engblom v. Carey, No. 79 Civ. 4785 (RWS).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • September 2, 1981
    ...infringed "has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia...." United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174, 178, 59 S.Ct. 816, 818, 83 L.Ed. 1206 (1939). Whether or not plaintiffs' possession of these weapons meets that criterion, the equally well e......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
4 books & journal articles
  • THE TRAJECTORY OF FEDERAL GUN CRIMES.
    • United States
    • University of Pennsylvania Law Review Vol. 170 Nbr. 3, February 2022
    • February 1, 2022
    ...is circumscribed in myriad ways). (17) See infra Part III. (18) Sonzinsky v. United States, 300 U.S. 506 (1937); United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939); Tot v. United States, 319 U.S. 463 (1943); Haynes v. United States, 390 U.S. 85 (1968); United States v. Freed, 401 U.S. 601 (1971);......
  • LOWER COURT ORIGINALISM.
    • United States
    • Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy Vol. 45 Nbr. 1, January 2022
    • January 1, 2022
    ...unresolved" and that "nothing in our precedents forecloses our adoption of the original understanding of the Second Amendment"). (68.) 307 U.S. 174 (69.) Heller, 554 U.S. at 638 (Stevens, J., dissenting) (observing that "hundreds of judges" in the lower courts had "relied on the view of the......
  • The State of the Castle
    • United States
    • Criminal Justice Review Nbr. 34-4, December 2009
    • December 1, 2009
    ...Federal Probation, 59(3), 16-37.Tweedy v. State, 5 Iowa 433 (1857).Unis v. State, 717 So. 2d 581 (1998).United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939).U.S. Department of Justice. (2008). Expanded homicide data: Justified homicide by weapon, private citizen, 2003-2007. Retrieved September 25, ......
  • Criminal Justice Decisions of the United States Supreme Court, 2007 Term
    • United States
    • Criminal Justice Review Nbr. 33-4, December 2008
    • December 1, 2008
    ...U.S.—,76 U.S.L.W. 4136 (2008).Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288 (1989).United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005).United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939).United States v. Ressam, 553 U.S.—,76 U.S.L.W. 4271 (2008).United States v. Rodriquez, 553 U.S.—,76 U.S.L.W. 4302 (2008).United States ......

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