The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the Second Amendment “applies equally to the federal government and the states.”
The 5-4 ruling in McDonald v city of Chicago did not explicitly strike down gun bans in Chicago and one of its suburbs, but orders a federal appeals court to reconsider its initial ruling upholding the bans. But it left little doubt that they would eventually fall, a vast majority of legal pundits agree.
The ruling states conclusively that the 14th Amendment incorporates the Second Amendment, meaning local and state governments cannot pick and choose which fundamental Constitutional rights it can ignore or uphold.
“Today’s ruling is a victory for freedom and liberty,” said National Shooting Sports Foundation President Stephen L. Sanetti. “All law-abiding Americans, no matter whether they live in a big city like Chicago or in rural Wyoming, have the same Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. Constitutional rights don’t stop at state or city borders. Cities like Chicago and New York and states like California must now respect the Second Amendment.”
That’s the good news.
There is a potential for bad news … if what appears to be good news now, in the immediate aftermath of the decision’s release Monday, does not materialize as hoped.
Two issues of concern remain.
In authoring the majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito suggested that some limitations on the Second Amendment could survive legal challenges. The Second Amendment is fully binding on states and cities and “limits (but by no means eliminates) their ability to devise solutions to social problems that suit local needs and values,” he wrote.
If this ambigious loophole can be exploited by anti-gunners, their legal strategy will be revealed when the Seventh Circuit Court again reviews McDonald v. Chicago, as it was remanded to do by Monday’s decision.
Alito, writing for all five majority justices, said “the right to keep and bear arms must be regarded as a substantive guarantee, not a prohibition that could be ignored so long as the states legislated in an evenhanded manner.”
The ruling builds upon the Court’s 2008 decision in D.C. v. Heller that invalidated the handgun ban in the nation’s capital. That decision held that the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms was a right the Founders specifically delegated to individuals.
Gun rights proponents almost immediately filed a federal lawsuit challenging gun control laws in Chicago and its suburb of Oak Park, Ill, where handguns have been banned for nearly 30 years. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence says those laws appear to be the last two remaining outright bans.
Lower federal courts upheld the two laws, noting that judges on those benches were bound by Supreme Court precedent and that it would be up to the high court justices to ultimately rule on the true reach of the Second Amendment.
In Monday’s ruling, four of the majority justices concluded that the 2d Amendment is incorporated through the 14th Amendment Due Process Clause. However, Justice Clarence said wrote that the amendment is incorporated through the 14th Amendment Privileges or Immunities Clause.
The ramifications of the ruling will play out in the weeks and months to come.
Here is a roundup of immediate reactions and analysis of the ruling: