Battle over gun rights – Round 2
Handgun bans under fire after high court's ruling. Oak Park, Ill., fights back.
The US Supreme Court's decision striking down a 32-year ban on handguns in Washington, D.C., has sparked a string of lawsuits across the country challenging the constitutionality of various gun regulations.Skip to next paragraph
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Two suits in Chicago seek to have that city's handgun ban declared unconstitutional. A ban on handgun possession by public housing residents in San Francisco is under attack. To avoid legal action, three Chicago suburbs have voted to repeal their gun bans, while a fourth, Oak Park, is fighting to preserve its ban.
In addition, a new lawsuit has been filed by the man who won his case at the Supreme Court. Washington resident Dick Heller has filed a suit challenging the District of Columbia's emergency gun regulations written last month to replace the handgun ban invalidated by the high court. Mr. Heller says the new regulations are too restrictive.
The flurry of lawsuits marks the second phase of what gun-rights advocates hope will become a turning point in the battle for broader protection of Second Amendment rights. On June 26, the Supreme Court declared for the first time that Americans have a Second Amendment right to keep a gun at home for self-protection.
"It is really historic," says Stephen Halbrook, a Fairfax, Va., lawyer who filed several follow-up lawsuits for the National Rifle Association within days of the high court ruling. "The decision is so detailed and tight that it is going to be hard for a future court to backtrack on it."
Gun control supporters also view the Heller decision as a critical moment, but not for the same reason. "It is a different kind of turning point," says Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. "This really could end up being a positive for gun control."
Change in national debate
The high court invalidated Washington's handgun ban and rejected the theory favored by the Brady Center that the Second Amendment guaranteed only collective gun rights tied to militia service. But Mr. Helmke says the Supreme Court also embraced a broad range of existing gun control measures.
Rather than sweeping aside gun regulations to establish an inviolate fundamental right to keep and bear arms, the high court announced that the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. While a categorical ban of all handguns violates the Constitution, other gun regulations do not, the court said.
In his majority opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote: "Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms."