The Second Amendment says, simply:
"A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."
The question before the court is whether that means the right of each person, individually; or, does the state have a right to regulate the ownership of guns as is necessary to maintain a militia? The debate was first joined years ago in the Chicago area.
On March 30, 1981, John Hinckley attempted to kill President Ronald Reagan with a gun. Six weeks later, on May 13, Pope John Paul was shot in St. Peter's Square. Two weeks after that, Geffrey LaGoia applied for a permit to open a gun store in the Chicago suburb of Morton Grove. Then Village Attorney Martin Ashman, now a federal magistrate judge, drafted an ordinance banning the private possession of handguns. What followed were tumultuous debates and noisy demonstrations that received nationwide attention.
On June 8, 1981, by a vote of four to two, Morton Grove became the first town in the United States to prohibit the possession of handguns in the home.
"I think the issue is different now. The 7th Circuit decided this case on the theory that the 2nd Amendment did not apply to the states. Well, this is a D.C., Washington, D.C., which is federal. So that allows them to come to grips with the actual issue, is a militia involved, isn't it," said Martin Ashman, federal magistrate.
But the Chicago ordinance is very similar to that in D.C. And opponents of gun control legislation believe Chicago could become the next battleground.
"I am very encouraged by the argument and the justices' reaction, of course, I and many other gun owners feel that it is an individual right. And there may be some controls put on it. But the controls can't be onerous or impossible to meet," said Richard Pearson, Illinois Rifle Association.