Wednesday, March 3, 2010

SCOTUS Docket Watch – McDonald v. City of Chicago : Part I

This week’s look at the Supreme Court takes us to the current case of McDonald v. City of Chicago to decide whether the 2nd Amendment is applicable to the States. 

This case follows the previous DC v. Heller (2008) decision which declared the District’s ban on handguns and its requirement to keep all legal firearms unloaded/trigger locked unconstitutional.  The Court reasoned that the 2nd Amendment protects an “individual’s right to possess a firearm, unconnected with service in a militia…”, which includes use for lawful purposes and home self-defense.  This decision extended the 2nd Amendment to private use in federal enclaves (including the District of Columbia), but the Court refused to decide on the issue of whether or not the same principle would apply to States.

The 2nd Amendment promises that “A well regulated Militia being necessary to Security of a Free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  As part of the Bill of Rights, this amendment historically has not been applied directly to the states.

Scholars have and will likely continue to debate whether the framers intended the Bill of Rights to apply solely to the federal government, or also to the States.  In 1833, the Court ruled in Barron v. Baltimore that the Fifth Amendment takings clause guarantee (federal government must provide just compensation if they seize private property for public use) only applied to restrict federal government.  For the most part, the underlying rationale limiting the amendment’s application to the state’s has been upheld.

After Reconstruction, the Court’s philosophy changed, and they began recognizing that most of the Bill of Rights Amendments did apply to the states, through the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause, which states that “No state shall make or enforce any law … nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…”  In this case, respondent's argue that the 2nd Amendment’s right to bear arms is fundamental to liberty, and the protection should extend to the States.

In this case, the petitioners seek to overturn gun registration restrictions for shotguns, rifles, ect. and a handgun ban in Chicago for being unconstitutional.  The trial court ruled for the City of Chicago, saying that the City’s gun ban and restrictions were constitutional.  This decision was upheld on appeal, and the Supreme Court granted certiorari to hear the case in September.  Interestingly, the Supreme Court is allowing the NRA to argue separately for the Plaintiff’s position; so both the NRA and McDonald will have to split their oral argument time before the Court.

Tune in next time, when we have the chance to listen to oral arguments before the Court and for a recap on the main arguments.


  1. I heard this on npr. MacDonald had some kind of statement saying he just wants the right to defend his home from these "young kids" that can just come into his house and steal things. also, he doesn't like that he has to use a shotgun. He wants to use a different weapon that the state won't allow. well, i say bazookas on Chicago free for all! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

  2. yea, it's an interesting case. I listened to the argument today; the Court is not even addressing the specifics of the Chicago gun laws. The entire focus is on the reasoning supporting whether or not to apply the 2nd amendment to the State

    The brief for the McDonald is fascinating; nearly 55 pages dedicated to an argument to reverse 140 years of S.Ct. precedent..Even the NRA attorney didn't go that route

  3. i'm glad to see people pushing for this, because chicago, like dc, really could use more guns

    i mean wait...

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