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Armed Drug Trafficking
"With my boat, I carry'd away every Thing."
Daniel Defoe

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United States
Armed Drug Trafficking

Justice Breyer Opinion
June 8, 1998
Seal Of The Supreme Court

A provision in the firearms chapter of the federal criminal code imposes a five-year mandatory prison term upon a person who "uses or carries a firearm" "during and in relation to" a "drug trafficking crime." The question before us is whether the phrase "carries a firearm" is limited to the carrying of firearms on the person. We hold that it is not so limited. Rather, it also 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.

... Robinson Crusoe says, "[w]ith my boat, I carry'd away every Thing." (Daniel Defoe, ROBINSON CRUSOE) And the owners of Queequeg's ship, Melville writes, "had lent him a [wheelbarrow], in which to carry his heavy chest to his boarding-house." (Herman Melville, MOBY DICK) This Court, too, has spoken of the "carrying" of drugs in a car or in its "trunk."

These examples do not speak directly about carrying guns. But there is nothing linguistically special about the fact that weapons, rather than drugs, are being carried. Robinson Crusoe might have carried a gun in his boat; Queequeg might have borrowed a wheelbarrow in which to carry, not a chest, but a harpoon.