Current Supreme Court Issues: Gun Control & the McDonald v. Chicago Case

  On Tuesday March 2, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in McDonald v. Chicago, a case involving the controversial issue of gun control.

The basic “right to bear arms” is found in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, where it states: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” In 2008 in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court ruled that this right to bear arms is an individual right protected by the Second Amendment, and overturned a handgun ban in Washington, D.C. Since Washington, D.C., is a federal enclave, the 2008 ruling left open the question of whether the Second Amendment also restricted state and local regulation of firearms as well. That question was presented to the Court in Tuesday’s argument.

Gun rights advocates challenged Chicago’s 28-year handgun ban as a violation of the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. The Supreme Court has held that most of the guarantees of the Bill of Rights – which includes the Second Amendment – apply to the states, under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment. The attorney for the City of Chicago, James Feldman, argued that firearms are different from any other subject of the Bill of Rights, because firearms “are designed to injure and kill.”

Many Supreme Court observers anticipate that the Court will rule that the Second Amendment does apply to state and local gun laws, but will also rule that the states do still have the authority to enact reasonable regulations and restrictions of firearms.

A transcript of Tuesday’s argument can be found on the Supreme Court Website.