There is an argument that any control of weapons in private hands is forbidden by the Second Amendment. However there are several gun control laws that are seemingly unchallenged.

Getting a tank with a working main gun is so tightly controlled to be effectively illegal under the National Firearms Act of 1934.

Similarly the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 makes the sale of new machine guns illegal and makes transfer of existing (as of 1986) machine guns tightly controlled.

The second amendment makes no distinction about the destructive power of the arms it protects. What argument can be made that makes a machine gun bun constitutional but control, not even a ban, of smaller arms unconstitutional?

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    Because Miller had a crap lawyer and died before the end of the hearings. Based on what the government was arguing at the time, MGs would be about the only thing protected today...
    – ivanivan
    Commented Aug 11, 2019 at 23:23
  • @ivanivan can you elaborate? Which case are you referring to? Why would only MGs be protected (sounds like you mean handguns wouldn't be?)
    – Adam
    Commented Aug 12, 2019 at 2:21
  • Adam - check out Miller vs US and hte SCOTUS case. Government was basically arguing that Miller's untaxed short barrel shotgun and full auto tommy gun weren't protected under 2A because they weren't typical of what infantry carried. Today, the M4 is select fire and even without that is considered a SBR (14" barrel w/ a shoulder stock).
    – ivanivan
    Commented Aug 12, 2019 at 12:47
  • It clearly isn't illegal to have a tank with a working main gun, because some people indeed own tanks with working main guns.
    – ikrase
    Commented Mar 30 at 4:44

1 Answer 1


The most relevant Supreme Court decision on this matter is District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), the entirety of which is a good read for anyone interested in these matters.

To excerpt a brief section that directly addresses this particular question (I've added some emphasis of my own, as it is still somewhat longish):

Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. See, e.g., Sheldon, in 5 Blume 346; Rawle 123; Pomeroy 152–153; Abbott 333. For example, the majority of the 19th-century courts to consider the question held that prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons were lawful under the Second Amendment or state analogues. See, e.g., State v. Chandler, 5 La. Ann., at 489–490; Nunn v. State, 1 Ga., at 251; see generally 2 Kent *340, n. 2; The American Students' Blackstone 84, n. 11 (G. Chase ed. 1884). Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws impos- [p. 627] ing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.[26]

We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. Miller said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those "in common use at the time." 307 U.S., at 179. We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of "dangerous and unusual weapons." See 4 Blackstone 148–149 (1769); 3 B. Wilson, Works of the Honourable James Wilson 79 (1804); J. Dunlap, The New-York Justice 8 (1815); C. Humphreys, A Compendium of the Common Law in Force in Kentucky 482 (1822); 1 W. Russell, A Treatise on Crimes and Indictable Misdemeanors 271–272 (1831); H. Stephen, Summary of the Criminal Law 48 (1840); E. Lewis, An Abridgment of the Criminal Law of the United States 64 (1847); F. Wharton, A Treatise on the Criminal Law of the United States 726 (1852). See also State v. Langford, 10 N.C. 381, 383–384 (1824); O'Neill v. State, 16 Ala. 65, 67 (1849); English v. State, 35 Tex. 473, 476 (1871); State v. Lanier, 71 N.C. 288, 289 (1874).

If that is insufficient to answer the question at hand, I must again suggest that interested parties read the entire case.

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    Nothing to do with Heller. MGs were taxed (extremely - $200 in 1934 dollars...) by the NFA of '34 which lead to Miller vs and the SCOTUS. Miller had a bad lawyer, and died before end of hearings/process. Not aware of any active challenges to the '86 closure of the MG registry for new products...
    – ivanivan
    Commented Aug 11, 2019 at 23:26

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