Sunday, December 20, 2009

Does the Second Amendment Apply in Chicago?

Last year’s landmark Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia v. Heller definitively settled the fact that the Second Amendment secures an individual right—not a collective one—to keep and bear arms. Yet that ruling applied only to the federal government (which oversees Washington, D.C.). Does the Second Amendment apply against state and local governments as well? Through a series of legal decisions handed down over the past century, the Supreme Court has gradually held that most of the protections in the Bill of Rights apply to the states via the 14th Amendment, which declares, “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.” The Second Amendment, however, has been glaringly absent from this process, leaving state and local governments free to systematically violate gun rights. Until now. Later this term, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in McDonald v. Chicago, a case that centers on whether the Windy City’s notorious handgun ban violates the 14th Amendment. As we’ll see, it most certainly does. The text of the 14th Amendment, the historical events leading to its adoption, the goals of its framers, and the statements of purpose made both by its supporters and by those who ratified it, all point in the exact same direction: The amendment was designed to secure individual rights—including the right of armed self-defense—against abusive state and local more

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