After big D.C. case in '08, San Francisco and Philadelphia have seen setbacks for local gun controls. More laws are expected to come under fire.
It's been a disappointing year for American cities seeking to curb violence via tough gun laws.
Since last June, when the US Supreme Court struck down key parts of the District of Columbia's gun-control ordinance, cities have seen the 20,000 local gun regulations enacted over the years begin to slip from their grip, one by one.
Philadelphia's ban on assault weapons and limits on handgun purchases are the latest to succumb, struck down Thursday by a state court. An appeal to the state Supreme Court is expected. In April, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down an ordinance in California's Alameda County that banned gun shows, saying the Second Amendment of the US Constitution applies in the states.
For years, strict gun laws in primarily Midwestern, Northeastern, and California cities have created an uneasy tension between the Second Amendment and crime-fighting realities on the ground. Then, the US Supreme Court, in a 5-to-4 decision, affirmed the constitutional right of individual Americans to own handguns, in a case known as District of Columbia v. Heller. In striking down parts of D.C.'s law, it opened the door to court challenges of other cities' ordinances restricting access to certain kinds of guns.
Gun-control laws in "New York and Chicago are next," says Bill Vizzard, a criminologist at California State University at Sacramento. Though the Heller ruling doesn't give a carte blanche right to "have a gun anywhere, under any circumstance," he says, its effect "could still be extensive. We just don't know yet how courts are ultimately going to interpret it."