What Does the Second Amendment REALLY Mean? | US v. Miller
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What Does the Second Amendment REALLY Mean? | US v. Miller

Mr. Beat presents Supreme Court Briefs Siloam Springs, Arkansas
April 18, 1938 Both Oklahoma and Arkansas state troopers pull over Frank Layton and Jack Miller, two known gang members (The O’Malley Gang) known for going around and robbing places. They find an unregistered, sawed-off shotgun in the car and arrest them for breaking the National Firearms Act, or NFA a federal law passed in 1934 that put an excise tax on making, selling, and transporting certain firearms and required people had to register those firearms if they had them. Also, the NFA said such gun owners had to report transporting the guns across state lines to the federal government when moving. The gun Layton and Miller had was untaxed and unregistered. Layton and Miller argued that the National Firearms Act was unconstitutional because it not only went against the 2nd Amendment, but also the 10th Amendment. The District Court judge, a dude named Heartsill Ragon (what a heartbreaker he was), acted like he agreed and dismissed the case, saying the NFA violated the Second Amendment. Here’s the thing, though. Apparently judge Ragon was cool with the NFA and just ruled that way because he knew Miller had just ratted out a bunch of his gangster friends and would have to go into hiding after he was released. Also, Miller wouldn’t pay a lawyer to appeal to the Supreme Court anyway. So yeah, the United States of America appealed the case by skipping the appellate courts and going directly to the Supreme Court who heard arguments on March 30, 1939, and just as Ragon had predicted, the defense didn’t even show up. Yep, absolutely no arguments were made and no evidence was presented on behalf of either Jack Miller or the Second Amendment. The Court heard lots from the attorneys for the United States, though. Their main arguments were: #1 – The NFA was mainly a way to collect revenue, so the Treasury Department gave the feds the authority to enforce it #2 – Eh, look, the defendants transported the sawed-off shotgun from Oklahoma to Arkansas, so this was totally interstate commerce And #3 – Sooo, the Second Amendment only protects having military-type weapons appropriate for use in an organized militia, and the weapon found in Layton and Miller’s car, a double barrel 12-gauge Stevens shotgun having a barrel less than 18 inches, ain’t ever been used in any militia. On May 15, 1939, the Court reached its decision. It sided with the United States, reversing the lower court, and saying the National Firearms Act indeed was constitutional. It was 8-0. Justice William Douglas did not participate in this case. So the Court held that the Second Amendment does not guarantee an individual the right to have a sawed-off double barrel shotgun because that specific weapon was not a reasonable weapon for either a well-regulated militia or self defense. US v. Miller was the only Supreme Court case that directly dealt with the Second Amendment in the 20th century. In fact, it wouldn’t be until 2008 when the Supreme Court tackled the Second Amendment again in a case called DC v Heller. I have a video for that one. Check it out after this one and stuff. Interestingly, both gun control advocates and gun rights advocates interpret US v. Miller as a decision that helps their side. Gun control folks say the decision is proof that the federal government is justified regulating certain types of firearms. Gun rights folks say the decision was good because it explicitly and specifically stated people have the right to own a firearm for self-defense and to form militias. However, today US v. Miller doesn’t seem to solve the gun control debate- it just seems to complicate it. So whatever happened to Frank Layton and Jack Miller? Well, Layton ending up pleading guilty and Ragon placed him on probation for four years. And Miller? Miller died before the Supreme Court even made their decision. His body was found in April 1939, with multiple .38 caliber bullet wounds. His own gun, a .45 caliber pistol, lay by his side. Hey, that gun was legal! I’ll see you for the next Supreme Court case, jury! Alright, I’m here in Chicago at the site of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, Here’s my friend Sami, from US101 He lives here. You should go check out his channel. The reason why we’re here for this video is because this is where it all got started for US v. Miller If it weren’t for the St. Valentine’s Day massacre, We would not have this case, because the National Firearms Act was passed in response to the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre partially, so Check out Sami’s channel, and check out my DC v Heller video that’s related to the Second Amendment Guns! Guns. Anything else you want to add? Sami: Men died here. Horrific deaths. All in their heads. Chests. Legs, groins, buttocks. Can we wrap this up? It’s cold. Mr. Beat – Yeah, check out his video also with Keith Hughes about the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.


  • Adrian Espinel

    I knew the moment the two defendants failed to show up for the Supreme Court that this was not going to turn out great for them. face palm

  • Lindsay Manning

    Hi Mr. Beat, great video, I find it odd that only one supreme court case of the 20th century was about the second amendment. Anyway, I hope you have a fantastic and relaxing summer. PS, Will Bush V Gore be uploaded before school gets back in?

  • David Maynard

    and it is stated in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights that the government does not have any right to infringe upon the Second Amendment right which is any weapon for which the people see fit to protect themselves their property and others. It is plainly stated their government has no authoritarian right to infringe upon

  • Aidan Forero

    I know it's not super important in the grand scheme of laws in the US, but can you do Nintendo v Universal when Universal tried suing Nintendo over Donkey Kong?

  • Michael Hill

    Can you do a brief on Coates v Cincinatti(1971)? I was looking up lesser known cases and felt that would be a good case because it's a pretty important 1A case that not a lot of people have heard of that protected "annoying" speech.
    That or Wickard v Filburn(1942) which increased the regulatory power of government

  • Alexander Winn

    Your Supreme Court brief videos and your American Presidential Election videos are very high quality and are the reason I subscribed to this channel. Keep up the good work. For the next Supreme Court brief, or at least sometime in the near future, could you please do Hobby Lobby v Burwell (2014). Cheers.

  • TheyCallMeCorona

    NFA is unconstitutional in my opinion, and at this point in time with the technology for AR pistols, braces, folding stocks and removable barrels, etc., the NFA is without a doubt , outdated.

  • etatauri

    Hi Mr. Beat, really enjoy your 'Briefs' series. I just got done watching The Staircase on Netflix, and I was wondering if you could cover N.C. v Alford.

  • Alex C

    Miller states that a double barrel sawn off shotgum isn’t used in any militia, therefore it falls under the purview of the NFA
    Under miller machineguns, short barreled rifles and shotguns are technically not under the NFA purview as they are all used by militaries and militias the world over.

    Think of that, a court decision overturns itself

  • Bovine One

    Wow! This is an excellent channel. Nice job dude. Informative, entertaining, interesting and well produced. Bravo!

  • its Me

    . Anyone that has read Miller vs United States will understand the court ruled the way they did was Miller was dead at the time, so the court had no chose but to rule by default in favor of the government, and the same time raising the question about certain firearms in the hands of the people in times of crises, that still never been truly answered.

    United States v. Miller,
    307 U.S. 174 (1939)

    Page 307 U. S. 176

    A duly interposed demurrer alleged: The National Firearms Act is not a revenue measure, but an attempt to usurp police power reserved to the States, and is therefore unconstitutional. Also, it offends the inhibition of the Second Amendment to the Constitution — "A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

    The signification attributed to the term Militia appears from the debates in the Convention, the history and legislation of Colonies and States, and the writings of approved commentators. These show plainly enough that the Militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. "A body of citizens enrolled for military discipline." And further, that ordinarily, when called for service these men were expected to appear bearing arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the time.

  • Goldfish I

    Imagine if criminal acts resulted in law requiring all citizens to register with the local police when they move to a new area and explain their reasons for moving to the police.. Yet we keep setting gun restrictions to protect us from criminals but criminals do not follow the law!

  • Ashleigh Stratmann

    I think NRA and the people who want to take guns away were right to think what this case meant. Which is why I agree with you that this case doesn't seem to solve the issue. But we got to remember ,guns are only weapons and thus can only kill if they are used to kill, or someone accidentally shot themselves with a gun. We can take away everyone's guns, but that won't make the world any less safer than it was before the time of the first gun.

  • Brian Cameron

    The Organize Militia argument was overturned in Heller v DC.
    Scalia in his opinion stated that the People have the right to unorganized militias called The People’s Militia!!!
    And Justice Kennedy wanted to over turn National Firearms Act and Miller’s Registration on Machine Gun as deficient in protecting the 2nd Amendment!!! DC v Heller and McDonald v Chicago was a Major victory for the 2nd Amendment with US v Cruikshank supporting both cases!!!! If you were a Black Criminal Defendant and have a drug charge, US v Cruikshank and Justice Scalia is your best friend!!!

  • Vlad G

    It means what it says it means.

    I love lefties. They think the 2nd amendment only protected muskets, but the 1st amendment protects modern tech-giants like facebook and google. What hypocrisy.

  • Carl Clausewitz

    Because Miller was dead before it went to court, I think the case shouldn't even have gone to the Supreme Court at the time. Since, you know, there was no Defense. :/

  • Funky Euphemism

    your summation is dead wrong in several very crucial ways. First, the 8-0 ruling never uses the following definitions you used: Organized militia, well regulated militia. As well as definitions you don't personally use here, but many people do: State militia, select militia, national guard. It simply says militia service. In 1939 the law governing militias was the Militia Act of 1903. That statute created our modern national guard. That law also says the creation of a selective militia did not replace, diminish., supersede the unorganized militia which was defined as "all those capable of bearing arms in defense of themselves and our republic. Which was the consistent definition of the militia as far back as the Militia Act of 1792.
    The ruling does grant the second amendment rights to bear arms is tied to the militia. It's also clear the militia they are referring to is distinctly the unorganized militia and the right being protected is an individual right to keep and carry arms for defense of ourselves, our communities and our Constitutional Republic. The test Miller lays out is that 'militia arms' are ones recognized as being arms in common use in militia services.

  • 123digdog

    Mr beat have you ever thought about teaching in university’s or doing talks at colleges? P.s I really love your videos and hopefully you can compare Vancouver vs Calgary.

  • English MotoVlogs

    Today a full auto M4 rifle with a short barrel is used in organized malitias all over the world. So there goes that check box, next up if you perform interstate commerce (if you are driving for hire) it is regulatable, however if you don't have a driver's license and you decide to travel in your automobile unencumbered which you have the right to do (Shapiro v thompson) then that will clear that checkpoint and show it was not interstate commerce and you were not engaged in transportation or profits using the public highways. To create revenue from a registration tax strictly to inforce the other 2 is in and of itself nonsense. That's the 3rd checkbox. Case dismissed

  • For The Love Of Seattle

    It doesn't matter how the court sees the 2nd Amendment because the way that they understand it might be different than the way it is meant to be understood.

    It doesn't even matter what the 2nd Amendment means to me, all that matters is what it really means. It is not open up for discussion, the founding fathers wrote it for a particular reason and for a particular meaning. We can debate this all we want, we can even give our definitions of what we think it means and explain how we want it to mean but when we boil it down to the brass tacks it only matters what it really means and why the second amendment was put there and what right it actually backs up. The right to keep and bear arms is simple, if you are a person that became a police officer you would be issued a sidearm and a badge. While you are a member of the police force you are to carry your sidearm and your badge at all times, and when appropriate you are able to bear said sidearm and badge. When you carry a sidearm you are able to keep said sidearm in your possession and to present it or to bear it. While in the membership of a well regulated militia you are allowed to keep an arm and Bear that arm in the protection of your state. How difficult is that to understand it seems self-explanatory to me

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