SCOTUS to hear handgun ban case

March 2, 2010 4:20:33 AM PST
A legal challenge to Chicago's law banning handguns goes before the United States Supreme Court Tuesday.It is an important case, not only for Chicago, but for all of America. The final ruling by the court may help determine what kind of gun laws can be passed by cities.

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley defended Chicago's ban on handguns and said he hopes the court would rule in the city's favor.

Chicago's handgun ban, now 28 years old, was very similar to the ban in Washington D.C. that was struck down by the Supreme Court 20 months ago. But the nation's capital is a federal enclave, and that Second Amendment ruling focused on federal law. The question is, will the high court extend the ruling to Chicago and other cities.

"Many people believe this is not an area where the Supreme Court should be looking over the shoulder of states' and local subdivisions," said Prof Jeffrey M. Shaman, DePaul College of Law.

Chicago's position is that local governments have long had the right to establish their own gun laws, and that the D.C. case ought not apply.

The Supreme Court in the Washington D.C. case said that Second Amendment rights are not unlimited, but minimally, residents of Washington D.C. ought to have the right to have a gun in their own homes to protect themselves.

That's what Otis McDonald wants. He is the lead plaintiff in the case challenging Chicago's gun ban.

"I have to do what I have to do, and I'm not going to take on something that is wrong or that I think is going to be detrimental to anybody," McDonald said.

"If the high courts strike down this ban, then we will literally become a city under the gun," said Rev. Roosevelt Watkins, Bethlehem Star Church.

On Monday, Chicago clergymen, four congressmen, aldermen and families of gun-violence victims joined to argue that an end to Chicago's handgun ban will inescapably lead to more gun violence.

"People have differences of opinions in different areas," Daley said. "We're not talking about taking guns away. We're talking about reasonable gun legislation, and that's what this is."

The Supreme Court will now decide whether the Second Amendment can be applied to the states, and if it does, it will then decide whether Chicago's handgun ban passes constitutional muster. Although he supports the right of local governments to write their own gun laws, Shaman said he thinks Chicago's handgun ban may not survive.

"So Chicago would just have to enact as many regulations as possible, short of banning possession of handguns," said Shaman.

The mayor Monday would not detail any fall-back positions, saying that the city's argument is a strong one and will go forward.