The US Supreme Court is hearing McDonald v Chicago — a case in which the plaintiff is challenging Chicago’s handgun ban as unconstitutional. Here’s how CNN describes the issue:
The court will ultimately decide two fundamental questions: Do strict state and local gun control laws violate the constitutional “right to keep and bear arms”? And can an individual’s right to own a weapon extend beyond federal jurisdiction?
The second of these questions — extending beyond federal jurisdiction — is a logical progression of 2008’s Heller decision. Since Heller was decided in the context of the District of Columbia, the application to states or local authorities was not addressed.
What Heller did do, though, was decide that the Second Amendment was an individual right, rather than a collective “as part of a well-regulated militia” right. This was an enormous decision, with profound implications.
But do individual rights enumerated (and upheld) in the Constitution supersede a city’s duty to protect the health and welfare of its citizens? Because that’s how the City of Chicago is describing its position:
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s response is that the federal government is not responsible for the health and safety of the citizens of Chicago; the city is.
So on the one hand we have an individual right, enumerated in the Constitution and upheld by the Supreme Court — just like freedom of religion, or speech, or assembly — but thus far only applied to federal jurisdictions.
On the other hand we have a city’s (or other local entity’s) duty to protect its citizens.Which should take precedence?
I suspect the SCOTUSblog analysis is correct:
The Supreme Court on Tuesday seemed poised to require state and local governments to obey the Second Amendment guarantee of a personal right to a gun, but with perhaps considerable authority to regulate that right.
If that’s what they decide, the court will have gotten it right. Cities and other governmental entities cannot simply ban a Constitutional right. I’m somewhat amazed, frankly, that it took this long to get this issue decided.