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My understanding of the second amendment is that it covers a wide class of weapons such as knives in addition to firearms.

My question is given that gun manuals inform individuals on how to operate firearms, and thus elevates an individual's ability to protect themselves, does this elevate it to the status of a second amendment protected property?

As a side note, I am aware that gun manuals would likely already be covered by the first amendment, making them legal regardless. I am asking specifically about their protection status under the second amendment.

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  • I don't think a piece of paper would be considered "armaments" (arms).
    – Ron Trunk
    Oct 26, 2021 at 18:49
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    By "gun manuals" do you mean simply written instructions for how to maintain and use a particular weapon?
    – Nemo
    Oct 26, 2021 at 18:59
  • @Nemo the manual that comes with the weapon with instructions on how to operate and maintain it
    – Badasahog
    Oct 26, 2021 at 19:22
  • @Badasahog So, to be clear, the question is about whether someone who possesses weapon X is entitled also to possess the manual for weapon X. You are not asking about someone possessing the manual for weapon X without possessing weapon X.
    – Nemo
    Oct 26, 2021 at 20:18
  • I would think the 1st Amendment would be the governing right. Banning books and reading material is already very difficult for the government to do for adults.
    – Tiger Guy
    Oct 27, 2021 at 2:22

2 Answers 2

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One can only be certain when a case is decided by SCOTUS, and so far, no law has attempted to ban the publication of manuals for firearms. Jackson v. City of S.F., 746 F.3d 953 gives good reason to think that the court would find such a ban unconstitutional. There is an analogous line of thinking regarding ammunition regulations, where some municipalities took the position that ammunition is not "arms" and therefore is not protected, since the amendment does not explicitly say "and ammunition". The Jackson court comments that

A regulation eliminating a person's ability to obtain or use ammunition could thereby make it impossible to use firearms for their core purpose

referring to Heller, and SCOTUS's finding that

the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess firearms and that the city’s total ban on handguns, as well as its requirement that firearms in the home be kept nonfunctional even when necessary for self-defense, violated that right.

The Jackson court

conclude[s] that prohibitions on the sale of ammunition do not fall outside “the historical understanding of the scope of the [Second Amendment] right.”

The reasoning that brings ammunition within the scope of Second Amendment protection applies equally well to e.g. ammo cases, gun oil, cleaning brushes, and instruction manuals, all of which are necessary to the lawful exercise of one's Second Amendment rights. See also Ezell v. Chicago, 651 F.3d 684 which holds that

the right to possess firearms "implies a corresponding right to acquire and maintain proficiency in their use"

and thus a ban on firing ranges violates the Second Amendment.

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The key case on gun rights is District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008) Looking at both the Wikipedia article and the actual opinion There seems to be no mention of manuals, instructions or other documents.

The Wikipedia article lists the "Issues addressed by the majority" as:

  • the "people" to whom the Second Amendment right is accorded are the same "people" who enjoy First and Fourth Amendment protection; *The historical background of the Second Amendment;
  • The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes;
  • self-defense is a purpose of the Second Amendment;
  • a total ban on operative handguns in the home is unconstitutional;
  • the District must permit [Heller] to register his handgun and must issue him a license to carry it in the home;
  • the conception of the militia at the time of the Second Amendment's ratification was the body of all citizens capable of military service, who would bring the sorts of lawful weapons that they possessed at home.
  • 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 imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms are not inconsistent with the Second Amendment

I find no later case in which possession or publication of manuals or instructions for guns is declared to be protected by the Second Amendment. It would be hard to frame a law (in the US) which prohibited or drastically regulated such manuals without falling afoul of the First Amendment, and I have found no instance in which Congress or any state legislature attempted to ban such manuals. There would thus have been no occasion for any court ruling on any Second Amendment protected accorded to such manuals. On its face, the Amendment offers no such protection.

Unlike ammunition, which is essential to the use of a gun as a gun, and which was held top be protected in Jackson v. City of S.F., 746 F.3d 953 a manual is not "essential" to such use, as there ae other ways of learning how to operate a gun. But for a particular person, a manual might be the only practical way of learning how to use a particular gun. If squarely faced with such a situation, a court might rule a pan on publishing or possessing gun manuals to be a violation of the Second Amendment, as well as of the First. A law providing "reasonable regulations" might well be a different matter.

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