Supreme Court Cases

Supreme Court Cases (2013)

Two Centuries of Gun Rights Revealed

by David B. Kopel, Stephen P. Halbrook, & Alan Korwin

Published in September 2003, Supreme Court Gun Cases dispels the myth that the High Court has been quiet on the subject of guns. The book runs 672 pages, covers 92 gun-related cases, and this is the bottom line: the Supreme Court has upheld the legal tradition and historical record of private gun ownership, self defense, and armed self defense, since the country began. The days of saying Americans have no individual gun rights are now over.

Time and time again, the Court recognizes the individual right to keep and bear arms that we observe in every facet of American life, in this scrupulously researched text. The anti-rights argument collapses under the weight of the evidence. Gun banners will be forced to find something new to say. Americans have a constitutionally protected right to keep arms and right to bear arms.

Here’s the tip of the iceberg:

(WARNING: The following is not legal advice. Local jurisdictions may not adhere to these Supreme Court results, may have introduced conflicting precedents, and may have enacted laws in direct conflict with these decisions or provisions in the Constitution.)

  • A dozen nearly forgotten self-defense cases expressly recognized people’s right to use personally owned firearms in defense of self, family and property.
  • The rights of the people to keep arms and to bear arms predates the Constitution and is protected by the Bill of Rights.
  • The false notion that the Second Amendment protects only some sort of collectivist states’ right to a militia, instead of individual rights, springs from a single appellate court case (Tot v. U.S., 1943), which did not support its thesis, but was subsequently adopted by numerous other federal courts without critical review of the faulty premise.
  • The phrase “the people” used in the 2nd Amendment refers to the same class of people referred to in the 1st, 4th, 9th and 10th Amendments of the Bill of Rights, as well as Article 1, §2, cl. 1 of the Constitution, which specifies that Representatives are to be chosen by “the people.”
  • The Supreme Court has not been quiet about guns – a word that appears in some form 2,910 times in the decisions, carefully reprinted in Supreme Court Gun Cases (gun, shotgun, rifle, pistol, etc., even “Winchester” five times). The Court has been essentially consistent for two hundred years. Individual Americans have the right to keep and bear arms, and the right to use arms in self defense. Saying the Court has not recognized your rights is baloney. This was a well-understood, settled matter of law by the early 1900s. Disputes about this are new inventions. Enlisting in the National Guard has nothing to do with it. Free able-bodied people are the militia by virtue of simply being here. The reason you can go out and buy a gun is because you have a right to have a gun, and have always had this right. Gun haters are going to hate this book.

Contents of the Book

  • Plain-English gists and highlighted quotations
  • Complete text of the 44 main gun cases – Relevant excerpts from 48 additional gun cases
  • Descriptive index of all 92 Cases – Plain-English summaries of all 92 cases

  • About the Supreme Court’s Gun Cases, by Alan Korwin
    • Overview
    • The Fall of the Second Amendment
    • Understanding the Citation System
  • Gun Rights in the State Constitution, by Prof. Eugene Volokh, UCLA
  • Analysis of Court Precedents on the Second Amendment, by Attorney Stephen P. Halbrook, Ph.D.
    • Right to Keep and Bear Arms, General Rule
    • Intent of the Framers
    • Jurisprudence of the Second Amendment
    • The Emerson Decision and the Justice Department’s Policy
    • The Fourteenth Amendment
    • State Jurisprudence
    • Is the Right to Bear Arms Fundamental?
    • Equal Protection Issues
    • Litigation Checklist
  • The Supreme Court’s Thirty-Five Other Gun Cases, Attorney David B. Kopel
    • Chart of Cases
    • The Rehnquist Court
    • The Berger Court
    • The Warren, Vinson, and Hughes Courts
    • The Taft, Fuller, and Waite Courts Conclusion
  • Chronological Text of the Supreme Court’s Gun Cases, by Alan Korwin and David B. Kopel

Noteworthy Reviews

“[...] wonderful [...] groundbreaking [...] belongs on the bookshelf of every practitioner of constitutional law. [...] Gun rights are an integral part of each American’s fundamental constitutional liberties.”

THOMAS C. PATTERSON, M.D., Chairman, Goldwater Institute

“Right in the face of unrelenting media distortion and anti-gun propaganda, Supreme Court Gun Cases proves beyond any doubt that the Court has explicitly upheld the legal and historical record of private firearms ownership and armed self-defense. This book proves what NRA has been saying all along — the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms — a freedom existing before America’s founding and enshrined in our Bill of Rights.”

WAYNE R. LAPIERRE, Executive Vice President,
National Rifle Association

“[...] dynamite. [...] Sometimes people need to defend themselves while we’re responding to a 911 call. Law enforcement officers know that firearms in the hands of decent people are a deterrent to crime. [...] It’s good to know the Supreme Court has been this positive about gun rights and self defense [...] pulls the rug out from under politicians who want you to believe you have no right to defend yourself or own a gun.”

JOE ARPAIO, “America’s Toughest Sheriff”

“Academics and judges will be surprised (no actually shocked) by how many times the Supreme Court has issued decisions bearing on private gun ownership. The extremely careful attention to documenting all the decisions will make it very difficult for future court decisions not to be affected by this work. The number of precedents is truly overwhelming.”

JOHN R. LOTT, JR., Resident Scholar,
American Enterprise Institute

“[...] a stunning accomplishment [...] will change the political landscape on the gun-rights debate.”

EVAN NAPPEN, Attorney and Author

“[...] shows that scores of Supreme Court decisions recognize the legal, theoretical and practical logic of private firearms ownership [...] entertainingly explains the amazing true stories and profound ideals that rise from time-honored American gun rights.”

AARON ZELMAN, Executive Director, Jews for the
Preservation of Firearms Ownership

“It is fundamentally sound, sorely needed research that supports the basic human and civil right to protect what’s yours.”

LAWRENCE E. TAHLER, Executive Director,
American Self-Defense Institute

“[...] the rights of man are endowed by their Creator, but ensured by the state. [...] Each responsible citizen must consider himself to be the custodian of his own liberty, and thus it is incumbent upon him to understand the processes by which such liberty is ensured. This text covers that subject at appropriate length.”

LT. COL. JEFF COOPER, USMC (Ret.), “The Father of the
Modern Techniques of Shooting”

“[...] strikes a powerful blow for freedom. [...] I’m particularly gratified to learn how vigorous the Court has been in supporting the right to self defense. If more states accepted this, countless innocent lives would be saved. My hope and prayer is that your book will supply the brain-cell ammunition necessary to continue our battle against those who would deny Americans such a basic human right.”

SUZANNA GRATIA HUPP, Texas State Representative,
Mother and Survivor of Luby’s Massacre

“My interviews of gun-control spokespeople show they either don’t know or won’t tell the truth about how the Supreme Court has consistently ruled in favor of a strong Second Amendment. This book, in the Court’s own words, should convince anyone that the right to own firearms is at least as strong as the right to free speech. Bravo on an important scholastic work that is easy to read and understand.”

TOM GRESHAM, Nationally Syndicated Radio Talk Show Host