|Syllabus ||Opinion |
[ Breyer ]
[ Ginsburg ]
The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader.
See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U.S. 321, 337.
MUSCARELLO v. UNITED STATES
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT
No. 961654. Argued March 23, 1998Decided June 8, 1998*
A person who uses or carries a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime is subject to a 5-year mandatory prison term. 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1). In the first case, police officers found a handgun locked in the glove compartment of petitioner Muscarellos truck, which he was using to transport marijuana for sale. In the second case, federal agents at a drug-sale point found drugs and guns in the trunk of petitioners car. In both cases, the Courts of Appeals found that petitioners had carried firearms in violation of §924(c)(1).
Held: The phrase carries a firearm applies to a person who knowingly possesses and conveys firearms in a vehicle, including in the locked glove compartment or trunk of a car, which the person accompanies. Pp. 214.
(a) As a matter of ordinary English, one can carry firearms in a wagon, car, truck, or other vehicle which one accompanies. The words first, or basic, meaning in dictionaries and the words origin make clear that carry includes conveying in a vehicle. The greatest of writers have used carry with this meaning, as has the modern press. Contrary to the arguments of petitioners and the dissent, there is no linguistic reason to think that Congress intended to limit the word to its secondary meaning, which suggests support rather than movement or transportation, as when, for example, a column carries the weight of an arch. Given the words ordinary meaning, it is not surprising that the Federal Circuit Courts have unanimously concluded that carry is not limited to the carrying of weapons directly on the person but can include their carriage in a car. Pp. 27.
(b) Neither the statutes basic purposeto combat the dangerous combination of drugs and guns, Smith v. United States, 508 U.S. 223, 240nor its legislative history supports circumscribing the scope of the word carry by applying an on the person limitation. Pp. 79.
(c) Petitioners remaining arguments to the contrarythat the definition adopted here obliterates the statutory distinction between carry and transport, a word used in other provisions of the firearms section of the United States Code; that it would be anomalous to construe carry broadly when the related phrase uses a firearm, 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1), has been construed narrowly to include only the active employment of a firearm, Bailey v. United States, 516 U.S. 137, 144; that this Courts reading of the statute would extend its coverage to passengers on buses, trains, or ships, who have placed a firearm, say, in checked luggage; and that the rule of lenity should apply because of statutory ambiguityare unconvincing. Pp. 914.No. 961654, 106 F.3d 636, and No. 968837, 106 F.3d 1056, affirmed.
Breyer, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Stevens, OConnor, Kennedy, and Thomas, JJ., joined. Ginsburg, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Rehnquist, C. J., and Scalia and Souter, JJ., joined.
1. * Together with No. 968837, Cleveland et al. v. United States, on certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.