June 28th, 2010

U.S. Supreme Court ‘Incorporates’ Second Amendment to States in Challenge to Chicago Gun Ban

In McDonald v. City of Chicago, the most important Second Amendment legal case since D.C. v. Heller, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution applies to States and local governments. This will allow plaintiffs to proceed with their legal challenge to a Chicago law banning handgun possession. Justice Alito wrote the High Court’s 5-4 decision.

In making this ruling, the High Court held that the Second Amendment applies to actions of State and local governments under the incorporation doctrine derived from the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Justice Thomas offered a well-reasoned concurring opinion arguing that the “Privileges and Immunities” Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment also demands that State and municipal governments not abridge citizens’ Second Amendment rights.

CLICK HERE to Read FULL TEXT of McDonald v. City of Chicago Decision

Now State and Municipal Laws Can Be Challenged on Second Amendment Grounds
In a decision written by Justice Alito, the Supreme Court ruled the individual right to keep and bear arms protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution applies to states and local governments. The court split along ideological lines in voting 5 to 4 to support the right of individuals to own handguns for self protection. The Second Amendment now carries “full sway” over state and municipal actions, as do most of the other protections enumerated in the Bill of Rights. In applying the Second Amendment to state action, the Court followed a familiar blueprint under which other rights have been applied to the states by virtue of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The case before the Court, McDonald v. City of Chicago, was filed in 2008 a day after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in District of Columbia v. Heller — in which the high court reaffirmed that the Second Amendment protects an “individual” right to keep and bear arms. The Heller decision, however, did not reach the question of whether the Second Amendment also applied to the states.

Immediately after Heller, several Chicago residents, including retired maintenance worker Otis McDonald, filed a federal lawsuit challenging the city’s long-standing gun ban. The Chicago-based federal courts ruled that the Second Amendment did not apply to the states and local governments, setting the stage for the Supreme Court to decide the question it left unanswered in its Heller decision.

On hearing today’s decision, Plaintiff Otis McDonald thanked the Justices: “for having the courage to right a wrong, which has impacted many lives long ago and will protect lives for many years to come.”

Steve Sanetti, President of the NSSF, which filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of McDonald, added: “Today’s ruling is a victory for freedom and liberty. 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.”

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Credit: Thanks to German Salazar, Esq. for sourcing the text of the Supreme Court’s decision.

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