Government & Constitution

Stakes Are High in Chicago Gun Case

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in McDonald v. City of Chicago, a landmark Second Amendment case whose outcome will have important consequences for the constitutional right to keep and bear arms.
 
The case is an important follow-up to 2008’s decision in Heller v. District of Columbia, which struck down Washington, D.C.’s ban on handgun possession. That case marked the first time the highest court in the land recognized and affirmed the individual constitutional right to gun ownership.  However, its reach was limited to the federal government and federal areas like Washington, leaving open the question of its applicability to state and local laws.
 
For this reason, McDonald is constitutionally significant for the rest of the nation. The case challenges current anti-Second Amendment laws in Chicago and Oak Park, Illinois, which don’t allow citizens to own or possess handguns, effectively denying them the right to armed self-defense.
 
I believe these laws are unconstitutional because they infringe on Americans’ fundamental right to keep and bear arms. The Second Amendment is a cornerstone of our democracy, enshrined in our Constitution by our founding fathers. The Supreme Court should protect this right by striking down these blatantly anti-gun laws that violate the Second Amendment.
 
Throughout my career, I have been an ardent defender of the Second Amendment. In 2005, I supported a bill to enact the “Castle Doctrine,” protecting the right of innocent and responsible gun owners to protect themselves in their homes. Recognizing a clear and unabated right to self-defense, the law went further by protecting the right to self-defense in public places.  This was a significant improvement from the previous law whereby a person acting in self-defense outside the home, workplace or car must use every reasonable means necessary to avoid danger before using deadly force.
 
As Speaker of the Florida House, I also supported and helped ensure passage of the “Guns At Work” bill to allow my fellow concealed weapons permit holders to keep their guns locked in their cars at work.  After years of talking about this issue, we finally accomplished it during my tenure as Speaker.  These and other Second Amendment matters that came before the Florida Legislature served to solidify my belief that governments at all levels – federal, state and local — should be bound by this keystone constitutional right, as I hope the Supreme Court will affirm in McDonald v. Chicago.
 
Beyond the impact on Second Amendment rights, the McDonald case also serves as a timely reminder of the important “advise and consent” role the U.S. Senate plays regarding judicial nominations to the federal bench. This case will mark an opportunity to observe the views and philosophy of the Court’s most recently confirmed justice on a critically important issue that raised many questions last year.
 
As the Senate debated Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court last summer, I announced my opposition to her confirmation based in part on her case history and testimony regarding the Second Amendment right to firearm ownership and self-defense matters at the state level. I viewed this as evidence that she would bring an activist approach to the highest court in the land and was especially concerned by her evasiveness on an issue as fundamental as these basic constitutional and human rights.  I was pleased that my opponent eventually followed my lead by announcing his opposition to the nomination as well, though he had previously appointed a Florida Supreme Court justice opposed by the National Rifle Association. Justice Sotomayor’s approach to McDonald will help answer questions that should have been answered prior to her confirmation last year.
 
In the final analysis, while judicial philosophy and constitutional interpretation are critically important elements of this case and in the broader debate about the Second Amendment, we must also not lose sight of the importance of explaining the practical applications of the McDonald case to the American people.
 
Otis McDonald, one of the four individuals challenging this ban, decided to do so after his Chicago South Side home was repeatedly broken into.  On one occasion, he was even accosted by local thugs possessing a gun in violation of the city’s handgun ban. Clearly, the Second Amendment exists to acknowledge the rights of law-abiding citizens like Mr. McDonald to keep and bear arms in order to defend themselves against those who seek to inflict criminal harm. In the McDonald case, the U.S. Supreme Court should affirm that all governments are bound by the Second Amendment.

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