Supreme Court Nixes Chicago's Gun Ban

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In a decision widely expected for months, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld a challenge to Chicago's 28-year-old handgun ban, effectively consigning the law to the history books.

The decision, which you can read in a PDF file here, was announced Monday morning. "Self-defense is a basic right, recognized by many legal systems from ancient times to the present day," Justice Samuel Alito writes in the majority opinion. "Individual self-defense is 'the central component' of the Second Amendment right."

Though Mayor Daley, the gun ban's biggest supporter, had hoped the court would come to see his side of things—"Maybe one of them will have an incident and they'll change their mind overnight, going to and from work," he said last month—the city has been suggesting for weeks that it will find other ways to try to restrict the flow of guns into Chicago. And Alito comes right out and states that the city has plenty of options.

"It is important to keep in mind that Heller, while striking down a law that prohibited the possession of handguns in the home, recognized that the right to keep and bear arms is not 'a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose,'" Alito writes, alluding to the court's 2008 decision striking down a gun ban in Washington, DC, that Chicago's was modeled after. "We made it clear in Heller that our holding did not cast doubt on such longstanding regulatory measures as 'prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill,' 'laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.' We repeat those assurances here. Despite municipal respondents'; doomsday proclamations, incorporation does not imperil every law regulating firearms."

Last week Daley and his allies in the City Council announced that they would act as soon as this Wednesday with legislation designed to curtail handgun access, potentially including regulations on licensing and sales as well as training requirements.

But that won't resolve any of the local political battles over gun rights and violence in Chicago. One local gun-rights group has been denied permission to use public space for a town-hall meeting, and the mayor has signaled over and over that he's going to continue to rely on restricting access to guns as his chief crime-fighting strategy--even though the city continues to experience shocking levels of violence with a gun ban in place. Dozens of people were shot again this weekend; last weekend there were more than 50 casualties, and police say Chicago has averaged more than four shootings a day since the beginning of the year.

Though gun-control groups say access to firearms leads to increased accidents, gun thefts, and even robberies and burglaries, gun-rights advocates claim that citizens are more vulnerable to violence with a handgun ban in place, an argument Alito went out of his way to highlight. "Chicago Police Department statistics, we are told, reveal that the City's handgun murder rate has actually increased since the ban was enacted and that Chicago residents now face one of the highest murder rates in the country and rates of other violent crimes that exceed the average in comparable cities."

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