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Supreme Court: Second Amendment rights apply across US

The US Supreme Court on Monday ruled that the Second Amendment's right to bear arms applies to every jurisdiction in the nation. It places in doubt the constitutionality of Chicago's handgun ban.

By Staff writer / June 28, 2010

The Supreme Court, seen in Washington in this April 9 photo, on Monday extended the constitutional protection of the Second Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms to every jurisdiction in the nation.

Evan Vucci/AP/File

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The US Supreme Court on Monday extended the constitutional protection of the Second Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms to every jurisdiction in the nation.

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The action places in serious doubt the constitutionality of a handgun ban in Chicago, and sets the stage for more legal challenges to an array of tough gun-control laws across the United States.

The 5-to-4 decision means that in addition to the federal government, state and local governments must comply with the high court’s 2008 landmark ruling recognizing an individual right to possess handguns in the home for self defense.

IN PICTURES: The debate over gun rights

Two years ago, in a decision called District of Columbia v. Heller, the high court struck down a handgun ban in Washington, D.C., ruling that it violated the right of individuals to keep and bear arms.

Because the District of Columbia is a federal enclave – rather than part of a state – the question remained open whether the newly articulated Second Amendment right would apply beyond federal jurisdictions like Washington, D.C., to states and municipalities.

That was the issue in Monday’s case, McDonald v. City of Chicago. Chicago maintains a handgun ban similar to the ban struck down in Washington. But it wasn’t clear from prior Supreme Court precedent whether Second Amendment protections extended to cities and states.

The high court has now made clear that they do.

“We have previously held that most of the provisions of the Bill of Rights apply with full force to both the federal government and the states. Applying the standard that is well established in our case law, we hold that the Second Amendment right is fully applicable to the states,” wrote Justice Samuel Alito for the majority.

A 'fundamental' right

The majority justices said the right to keep a handgun for self-protection in the home is a “fundamental” right, deeply rooted in America’s history and tradition.

Justice Alito quoted England's Sir William Blackstone as asserting that the right to keep and bear arms was “one of the fundamental rights of Englishmen.” He said the American colonists shared that view and decided to protect it.

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