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Supreme Court: Second Amendment extends to state and local governments

Supreme Court: Second Amendment extends to state and local governments

Monday, in the case of McDonald v City of Chicago, the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment extends throughout the United States and protects gun owners in every state and municipality.  The Court unequivocally affirmed an individual's right to own handguns for self-defense.   While gun-control laws may still be legal, the Court has also effectively prohibited states and localities from complete bans on gun ownership.  In short, gun control efforts will be subjected to constitutional scrutiny and analysis.  If restrictions go too far, courts are likely to find such restrictions unconstitutional.


By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court said that a Chicago law with a blanket prohibition on handgun ownership is too restrictive. The decision follows the ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, a 2008 case that struck down Washington D.C.'s blanket ban on handguns.  That case already addressed the meaning of the Second Amendment and affirmed citizens' rights to own handguns.  However, Heller only applied in federal enclaves, such as Washington, D.C.


The McDonald decision on Monday - by way of the due process clause of the 14th Amendment - extends the same interpretation of the Second Amendment to state and local levels.  Taken together, these rulings say that the Constitution bars federal, state, and local governments from banning handgun ownership altogether.


While the Court's ruling is certainly a victory for the Bill of Rights and individual freedoms, the long-term practical impact of Monday's ruling on gun-control remains uncertain.  For now, Monday's ruling is only likely to affect the gun laws in Chicago and Oak Park, Illinois. 


However, Monday's decision is truly a landmark ruling.  I anticipate it will be used to challenge other restrictive gun laws in cities and states throughout the country.  Of course, there will still be limits on the right to keep and bear arms, just as is the case with other constitutional rights.  And there will certainly be future litigation to define these limits.  But for now, the Supreme Court has settled the debate on whether the 2nd Amendment confers a collective or an individual right - score one for the individual.

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