Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.”     Thomas Jefferson

September 30, 2009

Supreme Court To Rule On Second Amendment’s Applicability To The States

by Doug Mataconis

One of the issues left unresolved by the Supreme Court’s ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller was whether the Court’s interpretation of the Second Amendment as an individual right applied to state and local governments. The last time the Court had the opportunity to rule on the issue, in 1886, in the case Presser v. Illinois, it specifically held that the Second Amendment only limited the national government, and no subsequent case has applied the doctrine of incorporation to the Second Amendment.

Today, the Supreme Court announced that it had accepted a case from Chicago that should resolve that issue once and for all:

The Supreme Court on Wednesday said it would decide whether an individual’s right to own guns for self-defense — as articulated by the high court in 2008 when it struck down the District of Columbia’s ban on handguns — also covers states and other cities with gun-control laws.

The question of whether the Second Amendment only applies to the federal government and federal enclaves like the District is one that was not addressed in the decision in Heller v. District of Columbia.

The case that the court accepted Wednesday concerns the city of Chicago’s law, which bans most handguns

Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSBlog provides further details on the issue now before the Court:

The Court had three cases from which to choose on the Second Amendment issue — two cases involving a Chicago gun ban, and one case on a New York ban on a martial-arts weapon. It chose one of the Chicago cases — McDonald v. Chicago (08-1521) — a case brought to it by Alan Gura, the Alexandria, VA. lawyer who won the 2008 decision for the first time recognizing a constitutional right to have a gun for personal use, at least in self-defense in the home (District of Columbia v. Heller). A second appeal on the Chicago dispute had been filed by the National Rifle Association (NRA v. Chicago, 08-1497). Presumably, the Court will hold onto that case until it decides McDonald; the same is likely for the New York case, Maloney v. Rice (08-1592) — a case in which Justice Sonia Sotomayor had participated when she was a judge on the Second Circuit Court.

Given that the makeup of the Court has not appreciably changed since Heller, it seems likely that the Court will rule that the Second Amendment does apply to the states, but that’s something we can’t really be sure of until the decision is actually issued.

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