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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.

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Alito’s majority decision relied on the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, the provision most often cited by the Supreme Court when the high court has moved to enforce the protections in the Bill of Rights to the states.

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The Bill of Rights was written and adopted as a check on the power of the national government. It was only later that the Supreme Court began enforcing those same rights against state and local governments. For example, state and local governments must respect free speech rights guaranteed in the Constitution, and state and local police must adhere to the privacy protections of the Fourth Amendment.

But the Supreme Court has not applied all of the rights in the Bill of Rights to the states. Some state courts do not recognize a right to a grand jury indictment or a jury trial in certain civil cases. Yet both of those rights are guaranteed in federal court by the Constitution.

On Monday, the high court extended its holdings in this area to declare that the Second Amendment must now be enforced at the state and local levels.

“In Heller we held that the Second Amendment protects the right to possess a handgun in the home for the purpose of self-defense,” Alito said. “A provision of the Bill of Rights that protects a right that is fundamental from an American perspective applies equally to the federal government and the states.”

Alito was joined in the majority opinon by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas.

In addition to Stevens, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a dissent that was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.

“The Framers did not write the Second Amendment in order to protect a private right of armed self-defense,” Breyer wrote. “There has been, and is, no consensus that the right is, or was, fundamental,” he said. “No broader constitutional interest or principle supports legal treatment of that right as fundamental. To the contrary, broader constitutional concerns of an institutional nature argue strongly against that treatment.”

IN PICTURES: The debate over gun rights