United States v. Miller et al. History

B.L.U.F. — Examining the 1939 case of United States v. Miller 307 U.S. 174 where we first lost our Second Amendment Rights. Touching on how Heller, McDonald, and Bruen all reference back to Miller but how it got twisted to allow the courts to allow infringements to continue


On April 18, 1938, the Arkansas and Oklahoma state police stopped Miller and Layton outside of Siloam Springs, Arkansas, en route from Claremore. They had an unregistered, short-barreled shotgun in the car and apparently were “making preparation for armed robbery.” So the police arrested them.

Miller and Layton ended up in Fort Smith, Arkansas, where United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas Clinton R. Barry charged them with violating the National Firearms Act. Barry knew all about Miller, as he had attended the O’Malley trials and seen Miller testify. Barry was eager to ensure the government could prove an NFA violation. It is “[e]xtremely important this case be investigated by competent federal officers quickly before these parties released on bond to prove possession this weapon in Oklahoma immediately before arrest in Arkansas to show transportation.” The United States Attorney’s office forwarded Barry’s request to the F.B.I. for investigation.
N.Y.U. Journal of Law & Liberty [Vol. 3:48 2008]

There is a different version of the arrest of Miller in Unintended Consequences, this appears to be more factual.

This is how the District Judge Heartsill Ragon described it:

The defendants in this case are charged with unlawfully and feloniously transporting in interstate commerce from the town of Claremore, Oklahoma, to the town of Siloam Springs in the State of Arkansas, a double barrel twelve gauge shot gun having a barrel less than eighteen inches in length, and at the time of so transporting said fire arm in interstate commerce they did not have in their possession a stamp-affixed written order for said fire arm as required by Section 1132c, Title 26 U.S. C.A., the regulations issued under the authority of said Act of Congress known as the National Firearms Act, 26 U.S. C.A. § 1132 et seq.
United States v. Miller, 26 F. Supp. 1002 (W.D. Ark. 1939)

There are some significant aspects to this case and how it was charged. The state would have to prove that the firearm in question required a NFA tax stamp, that it did not have that tax stamp, that it had been transported across state lines. And that the police had reason to make the stop.

This was before Miranda but the law still required some reason to arrest and search people.

The Miller case was a case of tax evasion. Failure to pay a $200 tax on a $15 shotgun. In addition, the NFA made transporting a registered firearm across state lines a crime unless the state first gave permission.
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Why are there no juries in these 2A cases?

We were asked “Why don’t we see juries involved in all of these Second Amendment cases? The simple answer is “they are not needed”. Read on for why.

Court cases are decided in two different ways, on the merits of the case, and procedurally.

Consider the question “Does the District of Columbia’s restriction on having a functional firearm within the home violate the Second Amendment?”

Prior to 2008 many courts were using the collective right interpretation of the Second Amendment. With this in mind the most of these cases were dismissed for procedural reason. I.e. if you were not the militia challenging the restriction you did not have standing. Standing is a procedural issue.

Cases that are decided on a procedural basis can be brought up again once the procedural issue is corrected.
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Is Barrel Proofing an Analogous Regulation?

It was suggested by it’s just Boris that a founding era firearm safety requirement could be used to support the California Roster system. In particular, they suggested that proof testing would be a close enough match.

It isn’t. Proofing a firearm is entirely different from the idea of requiring or forbidding features.

The original proofing was done to make sure that guns did not blow up in your face. Because of the metallurgy of the time it was not a good idea to trust a pressure vessel until it had been tested. To this end “proofing” was required.

Once completed, all of the individual parts would be sent to one of the royal arsenals to be carefully inspected for quality and to ensure they were “to pattern” with the control piece. If the parts passed inspection they would receive an inspector’s stamp and be fitted to a gunstock along with the other parts of the musket. The stocks were supplied to the arsenals by rough stockers who selected the appropriate blank stocks (specifically, seasoned walnut heartwood) from timber mills throughout Britain. The blank stocks were sent to the arsenals, and the final assembly of the musket was completed at the arsenal by the master gunsmiths employed there. Each musket was fired with an excessive amount of powder to ensure its strength and received a final acceptance stamp if it passed. This was known as proofing. Once the production process was complete, the muskets could then be issued to the state for use. The raw materials—such as coal, brass, iron and wood—had to pass through several processes to reach the final product and would have gained value with each step. The value of the work put into each step would culminate into the final value of the finished musket. This value, plus use-value, is the complete value the Board of Ordnance would have paid for each musket.
The Production of Muskets and Their Effects in the Eighteenth Century

Emphasis added.

What is very important about the requirement for “proofing”, from a Second Amendment view, is that no class of arm, “pattern” was outright banned.

What was happening is that a level of third party quality control was being performed, by the government.

At times the proofing wasn’t done a the royal proofing houses but was instead done at the manufacturer’s location.

With the California roster, the concept is that if California doesn’t like the weapon it is banned. Not that the weapon has to perform as designed and not blow up.

In addition, while proofing was required in Europe, I can find no regulations that actually require the proofing of firearms from 1790-1799. I used both Google and Duke Center for Firearms Law. It is likely that with a bit more work I could find something at Duke but the real proof is that the state has not made the argument in any of the cases I’ve read.

Words are hard

Everything in this article that is not a quote is my understanding. I AM NOT A LAWYER so the odds of me getting something wrong is non-zero.

In Boland v. Bonta: Another District Court Win “UHA” I quoted and wrote.

The Complaint, and every cause of action therein, is barred by the equitable doctrines of estoppel, laches, unclean hands, and/or waiver.
Answer to Amended Complaint at P 16

I should have spent some more time figuring out what this all means.

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