THE McDONALD DECISION:
THE VERDICT IS IN, BUT WE MUST REMAIN VIGILANT AGAINST EFFORTS TO CIRCUMVENT IT.
On June 28, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in McDonald v. Chicago, the case challenging handgun bans in Chicago and Oak Park, Illinois. All of the justices’ opinions deserve our attention. But two deserve special scrutiny, because they forecast what’s in store for the Second Amendment, and they show why the Second Amendment’s future depends on how gun owners like you and me vote from this day forward.
Of foremost importance, the Court’s majority opinion declared that the amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms for all Americans. The same five justices who, in District of Columbia v. Heller two years ago, ruled that the amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms, expanded that protection in McDonald. Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, declared, “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.”
Within 96 hours of the ruling, Chicago’s Mayor, Richard Daley, rammed legislation through the Chicago City Council to thwart the court’s intent, just as the District of Columbia Council did after Heller. The new law prohibits dealer sales of firearms within Chicago; prohibits the possession of a handgun anywhere outside the home; prohibits the possession of a long gun other than at home or in a fixed place of business; prohibits having more than one firearm assembled within the home; prohibits laser sighting devices; imposes a $100 fee for a mandatory three year city firearm permit; bans “assault weapons,” magazines that hold more than 12 rounds, handguns that are deemed “unsafe” due to their size, concealability, weight, reliability, caliber or “other factors”; and imposes many other unreasonable restrictions. (As we reach the deadline for this article, NRA’s legal team has just filed a follow-up suit, challenging many of these new restrictions on behalf of several Chicago gun owners.)
The Court’s opinion spells out its reasoning in detail, and every gun owner should read it, along with the thought-provoking concurrences by Justices Thomas and Scalia. But every gun owner should also read the outrageous dissent filed by Justice Stephen Breyer. Breyer’s opinion is the road map the Second Amendment’s enemies plan to use to overturn Heller, and now McDonald, to give a green light to unlimited federal, state and local gun control.
Justice Breyer, who also dissented in Heller, claimed in his McDonald dissent that there is “nothing in the Second Amendment’s text, history or underlying rationale that could warrant characterizing it as ‘fundamental’ insofar as it seeks to protect the keeping and bearing of arms for private self-defense purposes.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. Unfortunately, some people pretend that words mean whatever they want them to mean. After building an anti-gun record as a state legislator, presidential candidate Barack Obama said that he supported the Second Amendment. President Obama then nominated Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. And, after testirying in her Senate confirmation hearing that she considered Heller to be “settled law,” Justice Sotomayor joined in the Breyer dissent, which argued the opposite.
The lesson is clear. The future of the Second Amendment will depend on how you and I vote, starting in November and continuing for as long as we can make it into the voting booth. We’re the ones who elect the president who makes nominations to the Supreme Court, and we’re the ones who elect the U.S. senators who confirm or reject those nominations.
So this November, please join me in working toward the day when all nine justices on the high court respect the most important of our fundamental rights.
The McDonald opinions, briefs and latest updates are available at www.nraila.org/chicago