The U.S. Supreme Court Monday morning handed down its long awaited decision on the McDonald v. Chicago gun case. While not explicitly striking down Chicago's gun ban, the Court ruled the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms "applies equally to the federal government and the states."
That means cities and states do not have the legal standing to prohibit guns outright. But the decision did leave open the possibility that municipalities can come up with creative ways to deal with gun problems. Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito said that the Second Amendment "limits (but by no means eliminates) their ability to devise solutions to social problems that suit local needs and values."
The vote was 5-4, along the usual ideological lines.
In his dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens, in his final day on the bench after 34 years, said that the decision "could prove far more destructive — quite literally — to our nation's communities and to our constitutional structure."
This ruling follows the court's 2008 decision that struck down Washington, D.C.'s handgun ban. That ruling, however, applied only to federal laws. This one deals with cities and states.
Since then, local lawmakers in Washington, D.C. imposed a series of regulations on handgun ownership, including requirements to register weapons and to submit to a multiple-choice test, fingerprinting and a ballistics test. Owners must also show they have gotten classroom instruction on handling a gun and have spent at least an hour on the firing range. Some 800 people have now registered handguns in the city.
Anticipating a similar result in their case, Chicago lawmakers are looking at even more stringent regulations.
But the new regulations are already the subject of lawsuits, which the dissenting justices pointed out on Monday. In Washington, Dick Heller, the plaintiff in the original case before the Supreme Court, has sued the city over its new laws. Heller argues that the stringent restrictions violate the intent of the high court's decision. So far a federal judge has upheld the limitations, but the case has been appealed, and will likely end up before the high court.