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“Machine Guns” That Aren’t: Did the D.C. Code Mislead Justice Breyer?

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5 Responses

  1. shg says:

    That was painful in its desperation to find another “mistake”.

  2. Brett Bellmore says:

    “Justices Stevens and Scalia’s mischaracterization, in D.C. v. Heller, of the Court’s 1939 Second Amendment precedent, U.S. v. Miller, as “upholding a conviction” for violating a federal firearms law.”

    Whoa! I hadn’t even noticed until checking the above, that Scalia didn’t pick up on Stevens’ mistake. Among all those slams, he really missed a nifty zinger.

  3. James Gibson says:

    I think you are being too kind. Breyer had an agenda to protect the DC law and this can be seen in his statements during the arguments. His comment that the 1792 militia Act prohibited pistols from everyone except the officers was a false statement. Under that law the officers were required to have a sword and the infantry a musket or rifle. There was no prohibition against anything, just a statement that regardless of what other arm the men may own, the infantry had to have a musket and the officers a sword. The only one required to have a pistol were members of the cavalry who were required to own two pistols.

    In a similar action Breyer’s suggestion that the Boston fire ordnance prevented the use of personnel weapons for self defense is equally erroneous. He mentions on page six of his dissent that soldiers with paper cartridges could load and shoot four shots in a minute but then suggests that civilians with their rifles were much slower (his source being Hicks). What he fails to mention is that Hicks was talking about all muskets, not just those in the hands of “trained troops”. Further, in Stevens dissent (footnotes on pages 15 and 38), it is noted that the 1792 Militia Act required all militiamen to have more then 20 of these cartridges in their kit for immediate militia duty. Finally, and Breyer should have known this from his obvious reading of Arming America, Massachusetts had virtually no rifles listed in their militia returns. If these returns, as certain people suggest, were a gun census then why would Breyer be arming Bostonians with slow loading rifles when the census says they were 90% muskets.

    Lets stop being politically correct, Breyer and the rest of the dissenters were just looking for an excuse to rule the way they did.

  4. Jeff Rubinoff says:

    What I in particular do not understand about the DC law is that, when I lived in Ward 5 in the late 80s-early 90s, most male heads of households (and quite a number of female) kept a firearm in the house for home defense. This had a significant social and cultural root in what the role of the man of the house was–combined with practical considerations regarding the crap response time of DC police east of Rock Creek Park.

    Someone held up a disco in my neighborhood once. The bartender told him he could have all the money in the till and he should keep cool but please leave the patrons alone. The robber took this as a challenge and turned his pistol on the patrons, demanding their money and jewelry.

    His body had 5 gunshot wounds from 3 different pistols.

  5. Ranger G says:

    Breyer’s goof is unsurprising; few would suspect “firearm” includes fearsome BB guns…but they do in the statutes of many jurisdictions. Including semiautomatics under “machine gun” or “assault weapon” bans is common. But more to the point, its simply ignorant fantasy to think that the militia/military does not use handguns to a very significant degree–as a collateral weapon for those on crew-served weapons, often for crewmwembers in armored vehicles, and very heavily for security purposes. And handguns require the most effort/training to use properly–a fact revealed when I spent 5 years on nuclear weapons security in the Navy and witnessed one sailor peer down the barrel of a loaded M1911a1 that had misfired, and another fiercely ramming a magazine in to his .45–while staring directly at it, and not realizing he had the magazine rotated 180 degrees horizontally. The rounded shiny thing should point away from you, sailor…. So. Suffice it to say that neither of these folks were NRA types…and both would have benefitted vastly from a little civilian handgunning.