As per the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution one has to wonder if there are any restrictions with regard to the type (or destructiveness) of arm you shall bear.

If someone could afford the bill and be in safety/inspection/regulation compliance and seek to bear the arm of nuclear weapons one has to wonder if this would be their constitutional right.

Do people have a legal right to own nuclear weapons? Why or why not and has anyone ever taken such concerns to a court for a legal judgement on the matter?

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Almost certainly, there is no such right.

It's illegal under 18 USC 831 to possess "nuclear material" without specific authorization. 18 USC 832 forbids the possession of a "radiological weapon". If there is intent to use the device to cause death, serious bodily injury, or damage to property or the environment, that's also a violation of 18 USC 2332i.

I don't think these laws have been explicitly tested against the Second Amendment, but related cases suggest they would hold up (if the challenge wasn't simply dismissed as frivolous).

The Second Amendment doesn't grant a blanket right to own weapons. Federal law, 18 USC 922 (o) makes it unlawful to own a "machinegun" (as defined in the statute), and in the case of Hollis v. Lynch, the Fifth Circuit held that this law was constitutional, because, as they said, the Second Amendment only protects weapons that are in "common use [...] for lawful purposes like self-defense." This case doesn't seem to have been appealed further, but the reasoning cited by the Fifth Circuit comes from the Supreme Court's opinion in D.C. v. Heller.

If machineguns aren't in "common use", and therefore not protected, surely the same would apply to nuclear weapons.

  • I wonder what would happen if somebody wanted a machine gun because the mafia in his hometown were notorious for carrying them. But either way an nuke is just ridiculous. – Joshua Oct 23 at 3:44
  • @Joshua: That person would just be out of luck. The machinegun law doesn't have any exceptions for such cases. – Nate Eldredge Oct 23 at 4:08
  • Elredge: The Court ruling explicitly depends on them not being commonly used. If this flips ... – Joshua Oct 23 at 13:37
  • I guess this means that at such time when "arms" are not in common use (they aren't in as common of use as they were in the 1700s) then the 2nd Amendment is moot. – mark b Oct 24 at 18:00

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