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D.C. v. Heller Leaves Big Second Amendment Question

Can it Be Enforced Against State Gun Laws?

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Updated June 28, 2008
Here's a big question for you and thousands of trial lawyers across the nation: Now that the Supreme Court, in its D.C. v. Heller decision, has established that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to possess firearms, rather than the right of the states to form armed militias, can the Second Amendment also be extended to block strict state and local gun laws?

Gun rights advocates say it can under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which states, "No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

The problem is, that the handgun control law overturned by the D.C. v. Heller decision was a District of Columbia law, and D.C. is not a state. As a "federal district," D.C. is under the direct control of the U.S. Congress.

So, could D.C. vs. Heller be extended to challenge the constitutionality of a gun control law enacted in say, Chicago, Illinois?

Let the Suits Begin!
Just hours after the release of the Supreme Court's D.C. v. Heller decision, the suit, McDonald, et al., v. City of Chicago, et al., was filed in Chicago challenging a city ordinance banning the registration of all handguns and limiting the registration of other firearms.

"The Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms is a privilege and immunity of United States citizenship which, pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment, states and their political subdivisions may not violate," the complaint in McDonald, et al., v. City of Chicago, et al., argues. "Handguns, as a class of weapons, are 'arms' whose possession by law-abiding adult citizens is protected by the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms."

The Chicago ordinance is just one example of thousands of state and local gun control laws which may now face court challenges based on Second Amendment grounds. The bottom line? In D.C. v. Heller, the Supreme Court has opened what may turn out to be the most telling chapter in one of the nation's longest-running social novels -- gun control.

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