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Rage Against the Machine (Gun)

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

Matthew Wayne Henry got swept up in the do-it-yourself spirit, but the fruits of his labor were more likely to be featured in Soldier of Fortune than on Etsy or Pinterest.

Henry converted a .308 caliber rifle into a machine gun. After the cops got wind of his project, Henry was convicted of knowingly and unlawfully possessing a machine gun, among other machine-gun-related crimes.

Henry appealed, claiming that he had a Second Amendment right to rapid firepower. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed.

Last week, the Ninth Circuit ruled that the right to bear arms doesn't cover a right to own (or create) a machine gun.

According to the court, "machine guns are 'dangerous and unusual weapons' that are unprotected by the Second Amendment," reports The Wall Street Journal.

The Second Amendment states, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." In its 2008 Heller decision, the Supreme Court held that the District of Columbia's ban on handgun possession violated that right, concluding that the Second Amendment "guarantee[s] the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation."

That right isn't without limitations.

The Court stated that the Second Amendment only protects the right to own certain weapons, and that it "does not protect those weapons not typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes." Justice Antonin Scalia noted in the opinion that the "historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of 'dangerous and unusual weapons'" limits the right to keep and carry arms, and that it would be "startling" for the Second Amendment to protect machine guns.

The Ninth Circuit isn't alone in its view that the Second Amendment doesn't guarantee the right to a machine gun; the Third, Sixth, and Eighth Circuit Courts of Appeal have all reached the same conclusion, reports Business Insider.

Judge Milan Smith noted in the Ninth Circuit's opinion that every circuit court to address the issue since Heller has held that there is no Second Amendment right to possess a machine gun.

Should Henry appeal? It depends on how much money he wants to throw away on this battle. The Court might accept the case, but the machine gun-wary Heller majority is still intact. It's unlikely that they've changed their minds on this point in the last four years.

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