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Gun Case Addresses
Right to Possess Firearms

Gunnery Network
18 June 2000

A gun case in Texas could lead to a Supreme Court decision on whether the
U.S. Constitution gives an individual the right to bear arms, USA Today reported
June 18.

The case revolves around a 1998 court directive to Timothy Emerson to stay away
from his wife following a marital dispute.  Under a 1994 federal law, Emerson is not
allowed to possess a gun because of the restraining order placed on him during his
divorce. But last year, Texas Judge Sam Cummings ruled that Emerson could keep
his gun, saying that the federal law violated an individual's right to bear arms. 

The ruling sparked a gun-rights case that could have tremendous impact on
gun-control policy in the United States. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New
Orleans, La., may rule on whether the Second Amendment to the Constitution
guarantees individuals the right to possess firearms or provides that right merely to
state militias. With the expected appeals of whatever the court decides, the case
ultimately could end up in the Supreme Court.

"This is a case with some real potential consequences," said Akhil Reed Amar,
constitutional law scholar at Yale University Law School. If the court agrees that the
Constitution guarantees individuals the right to possess firearms, then a number of
gun-control laws could be invalid or may need to be rewritten. That prospect has
gun-control advocates concerned. "Right now, virtually any gun-control law with a
rational basis passes muster," said Dennis Henigan, general counsel of
Handgun Control Inc., based in Washington.

Henigan's group has filed a friend-of-the-court brief that argues against
individual rights. Henigan explained that if gun possession is found to be a
constitutional right, gun laws would be held to "a completely different standard" that
could weaken some and cause the failure of others.

The last time the Supreme Court considered the Second Amendment was
back in 1939, when it returned a case to a lower court to decide whether a sawed-off
shotgun owned by a bootlegger could be deemed a militia weapon.


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