Chicago Gun Case Heard by Supreme Court

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday in the Chicago handgun ban case known as McDonald vs. Chicago. The petitioners are seeking an overturn of the city law that bans most handguns, arguing that Fourteenth Amendment requires states and local governments to honor the Second Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms.

In response, attorney James Feldman, arguing to uphold the ban, said the issue of self defense is most effectively regulated through the political process at the state and local levels.

Alan Gura spoke first for the petitioners, and the justices also heard from Paul Clement on behalf of the National Rifle Association and other respondents in the case who support overturning the ban.

Both sides, as well as the justices, made several references to the 2008 D.C. vs. Heller decision, in which the Supreme Court struck down a longstanding ban on handguns in the District of Columbia.  However, since Heller was written in a manner that limited its effect to federal jurisdictions, the case currently before the court will have much broader implications for gun bans nationwide.

At one point Tuesday, Chief Justice John Roberts told Fleming that his argument “sounds an awful lot to me like the argument we heard in Heller on the losing side.”

The case sets up an ironic dichotomy: people who are ideologically left of center and supportive of a gun ban find themselves arguing for less federal control, typically not a liberal position.

At one point, Justice Antonin Scalia told Fleming that he was advocating a “mixed blessing” for gun control advocates by suggestion the federal government’s jurisdiction in the matter be limited.

“To the extent we sever the federal guarantee from what the States are obliged to comport with, we encourage a stricter federal Second Amendment, one that forbids all sorts of regulations that the federal government might otherwise be allowed to do, because it doesn’t matter, the states can take care of it,” Scalia said.

Though both sides endured lively questioning from the justices, post-hearing analysis suggests the Supreme Court will rule in favor of McDonald, a 76-year old retiree living in Chicago’s south side, and the additional plaintiffs. The Heller case ended up being a 5-4 decision.

A handful of people gathered outside on the Supreme Court steps to hold pro-Second Amendment signs, including a representative of the Second Amendment Sisters of Maryland and the wife of Richard Heller of D.C. vs. Heller fame.

The high court’s decision will probably come before its summer recess.