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If Chicago's gun control law is overturned, what next?

The Supreme Court will decide soon if Chicago's controversial handgun ban is unconstitutional. Both sides say such a decision would spur a slew of challenges to gun control laws elsewhere.

Ed Etheridge (r.) shows a customer a 9mm handgun at Rink's Gun and Sport in the Chicago, suburb of Lockport, Illinois, in this June 2008 file photo. Chicago's gun control laws push some people to nearby communities, to buy handguns.

Frank Polich/Reuters/File

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Every spring, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley stands before a table full of confiscated firearms and urges federal and state lawmakers to pass new gun-control measures that he says will keep streets safer. This year, there's a twist: Mayor Daley is at risk of losing a gun-control law he already has.

By the end of June, the US Supreme Court is slated to decide whether the city's 28-year ban on handguns – the last of its kind in the nation – is unconstitutional. If the decision goes against Chicago (and that's where the smart money is), the city will be forced back to the drawing board to find a new balance between gun rights and public safety.

More broadly, say legal experts, such a ruling will spur a slew of challenges to other gun regulations elsewhere – from hurdles to getting gun permits to bans on loaded weapons in public to rules forcing gun owners to keep weapons locked at home.

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The Chicago case is pivotal to Second Amendment defenders. If it goes their way, it will launch "a wide-open, exciting new field of constitutional litigation," says Alan Gura, a lawyer representing the Illinois challengers to Chicago's law. "Once this case is decided and hopefully ... we will prevail ... [Chicago] should look over its laws in good faith and try to see if there are any other problematic [gun] laws that need to be revisited. If the city will not revisit them ... I'm sure the courts will."


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