View Full Version : Resources for researching firearms law

10-17-2009, 1:24 AM
After spending countless hours I've at last concluded internet forums are not an efficient way to get to the bottom of firearms laws. It's easy enough to find and read the code, but how do you go about researching circuit court decisions, or wherever the case law is argued?

I've seen that there are find-law sites, but it doesn't appear very easy to home in on the code or areas of law I'm interested in.

Are there resources, internet or not (without paying an attorney), that allow a code or subject matter based search that are easy for the lay person to use? Maybe searching by code is effective but I just don't know the conventions for invoking the code I want.

Any pointers are appreciated.


10-17-2009, 1:39 AM


10-17-2009, 1:58 AM


He is looking for easily searched access to court cases that have altered the code not the code itself. I too would like to know the best tools online.

10-17-2009, 2:03 AM
Me too,

10-17-2009, 2:06 AM
This is free lexis:


10-17-2009, 6:06 AM

10-17-2009, 8:04 AM
Statutory law and regulations are usually available online.

leginfo.ca.gov for CA.
http://www.law.cornell.edu/ is a good place to start for federal stuff.

Supreme Court decisions are widely published. Free sources include Findlaw and Cornell.

Circuit court opinions are usually published on the official court website.

Briefs and a lot of ancillary legal materials for circuit courts tend to end up behind the PACER paywall.

SCOTUS transcripts & oral arguments (when released) are available through http://www.supremecourtus.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts.html or oyez.org

The most comprehensive legal research resources are subscription-based (i.e. Westlaw and LexisNexis).

You can usually search materials by search terms (e.g. ""gun" + "rights"). The difficulty is knowing what terms to use, locating sources, and knowing what sources of law to look at.

10-17-2009, 10:32 AM
One has to register, but this is a very good archive of California state court precedent: http://www.findlaw.com/cacases/index.html


10-17-2009, 11:26 AM
Quoting myself from another post:

1) Machtinger's How to own a gun in California is your basic introduction. Machtinger will teach you think 'lawyerese'. I'd be happy to make John Machtinger a millionaire if I could - maybe we could get copies given out with every newbie gun purchase.

Just reading this book and trying to understand will put you ahead of about 75% of all gun owners today.

And with his introduction to thinking about the gun laws, he provides references to penal code, and reference to important court cases. It's a model I strive to follow.

So, the easy places to get those are:

2) http://www.findlaw.com/casecode/: it's free and it's worth registering to use. This is a great source for cases.

3) http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/calaw.html: despite its appalling 'search' feature, it's official, pretty quickly up to date, and free.

Additionally, http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cacodes/pen.html is nice because the links stay valid. It used to be a bit simpler to use; now it's broken down to much finer grain, but there's no nice way to navigate to particular part, though one can jump to a section if you know what you're looking for.

Federally, I like Cornell: http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/

Federal bills, THOMAS is the authority: http://thomas.loc.gov/

State Bills, http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/bilinfo.html, and my cheat-sheet for reading that stuff is http://www.calguns.net/calgunforum/s...d.php?t=161873

A couple of other things are useful: Access to LEXIS/NEXIS is neat for historical things in state law. It isn't complete, but it's good.

In somewhat lesser places are CFR (Federal Regulations) access at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/cfr/
and CCR (California Regulations) access at http://ccr.oal.ca.gov/ and some nifty things like
CA jury instructions at http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/jury/criminaljuryinstructions/

10-18-2009, 11:51 AM
Lots of good leads here, thanks. I'll follow them up in a few days when I get back.

I was interested in the issue of non-licensee shipping of handgun frames by USPS to avoid the pricey UPS/FedEx rates for whole handguns. I know the Fed transactions code section defines frame=firearm, but that definition is said to apply for that chapter. USPS chapter offers no definition, uses strongly whole-form oriented language, and the USPS internal regs strongly imply frame-alone is not handgun. Since case law seems to often employ parallelism and analogy to fill in gaps, I'm looking for any appellate cases where application of the frame definition was applied outside it's seeming boundary. There may be other guidance or regs that apply that I haven't found yet, this situation is just an example of the usefulness of the type of resource I asked about.

10-18-2009, 3:32 PM
Go to your local law library if you have one (there should be one at every ABA Approved law school). I've yet to find one that was restricted to students.

Begin your search with treatises and other secondary sources which basically sums up the law for you and cite the cases they're relying on. You can then use these cites and go to the cases themselves; however, I've found that treatises are generally good enough if you just want an idea and a little more than basic understanding of the topic. If you're actually going to make an argument in court, reading the cases is a must and reading law review articles related to the material will be extremely helpful.

10-18-2009, 4:29 PM
Might I suggest a sticky called "California Gun Law Research Tools" with all of the solid resources linked in one place. Much of the info here is a great start.
Thank you...