Monday, June 28, 2010

Supreme Court rules against Chicago handgun ban

By Jamey Dunn

In the wake of a recent drastic spike in gun violence, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Chicago residents seeking to own handguns.

The city has banned handguns since 1982. The decision comes two years after the court struck down a similar ban in Washington, D.C., but that ruling didn't apply to any areas not under the jurisdiction of the federal government. Today's ruling determined that states and municipalities could not take away residents’ Second Amendment rights but does not bar the city from regulating gun ownership.

“The big deal about this case is that it applies to every municipality and every state government in the U.S.,” said Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association. The association was a plaintiff in the case.

Mayor Richard Daley said the city plans to rewrite the ban in an attempt to make it legal.
"I'm disappointed by the decision, but it's not surprising," Daley said at a Chicago news conference. "We're still reviewing the entire decision, but it means that Chicago's current handgun ban is unenforceable, so we're working to rewrite our ordinance in a reasonable and responsible way to protect Second Amendment rights and protect Chicagoans from gun violence."

He also told the Chicago Tribune the ruling would prompt new regulation, and city officials are looking at ordinances passed in D.C. after that city’s ban was struck down. Some options up for consideration would be a gun database, which would track firearms from their manufacture through each step ending in sales to owners. Another possibility is requiring ballistic “fingerprints” of weapons to make it easier for law enforcement to match bullets with the guns that fired them.

Lawrence Solum, a professor of law and philosophy at the University of Illinois College of Law, says the rulings on both the Chicago and D.C. bans leave such options in a legal gray area.

“The Supreme Court provided absolutely no guidance to lower courts in the many legal challenges — some of which are already in progress — to gun control ordinances and statutes that are less restrictive than the 'handgun bans' invalidated [by these rulings]. It seems almost certain that the lower federal courts will apply a variety of inconsistent standards. This means that the Second Amendment will surely return to the Supreme Court in the next two or three years, as these cases work there way through the system,” he said in a written statement.

“We think it probably is just the start of the fight,” Pearson said. He added that the ruling might make legislators think twice about gun control laws and the potential court challenges they face. “When lawmakers anywhere start to pass a firearms law, they have to consider the Supreme Court ruling. It put the Second Amendment along with other rights, on an equal standing.”

Meanwhile proponents and critics of the ban both point to the recent uptick in violence in Chicago — almost 30 people shot last weekend, leading to three deaths, and more than 50 shot and 10 killed the previous weekend — to support their points. Those in favor of the ban say more guns will equal more gun crimes. Opponents say the violence shows the ban is not working and law-abiding citizens should be allowed handguns to protect themselves.

Chicago's gun registration program will accept handgun registrations today. While they have received several inquiries, no one had filled out the paperwork as of this afternoon.

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