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United States v. Emerson

    Citation. 46 F. Supp. 2d 598, 1999 U.S. Dist.

    Brief Fact Summary. The Defendant, Timothy Joe Emerson (Defendant), moved to dismiss his indictment under 18 U.S.C. Section: 922(g)(8) for possession of a firearm while being under a restraining order. The Defendant argued that the statute violated his rights under the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution).

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The Second Amendment of the Constitution confers an individual right, which may not be abridged without due process.


    Facts. During his divorce proceeding, a restraining order was placed on Defendant. Defendant was indicted for possession of a firearm while under that order, in violation of 18 U.S.C. Section: 922(g)(8). Defendant claims that the statute is unconstitutional, as it abridges his right to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the Constitution.

    Issue. Does the Second Amendment of the Constitution confer an individual right to keep and bear arms?

    Held. Yes. Indictment overturned.
    Textual analysis shows one dependent (“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state”) and one independent (“the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed”) clause. The District Court for the Northern District of Texas argued that the dependent clause does not qualify, but rather, shows the purpose of the independent clause.
    Historical analysis focuses on the Anglo-American history of individual arms possession, the Revolutionary concern of thwarting tyranny and Madison’s vision that the Second Amendment of the Constitution be placed in Article 1, Section 9, among the other individual freedoms.
    Structural analysis argues that the placement of the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights is indicative of its application to individuals.
    The court finally argues that prudential concerns should not outweigh the importance of securing the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.
    Because 18 U.S.C. Section: 922(g)(8) allowed a state court to deprive a party to a divorce proceeding of his Second Amendment rights without specific findings, the statute is unconstitutional.

    Discussion. United States v. Emerson demonstrates several methods of analyzing the meaning of a constitutional provision including: (i) plain text, (ii) historical, (iii) structural, (iv) stare decisis, and (v) policy concerns. In this case, the Northern District of Texas balances the outcomes of the various methods and applies the result to the statute at hand.

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