After Supreme Court ruling, will gun-control laws be under siege?
A Supreme Court decision Monday threw doubt on a Chicago handgun ban. The ruling could lead to a spate of legal challenges against gun-control laws nationwide.
Gun-rights advocates say that a US Supreme Court ruling today will embolden them to challenge gun-control laws in cities across the country.
But lessons from Washington, which had a similar law declared unconstitutional in 2008, suggest that if tough gun-control laws are rewritten carefully, they can survive constitutional scrutiny.
IN PICTURES: The debate over gun rights
In both the Chicago and Washington cases, the Supreme Court rulings focused on the right to possess a handgun in the home for self-defense. But the rulings also made it clear that the court would not stand in the way of reasonable local gun laws outside the home.
After their gun ban was struck down, Washington lawmakers adopted tougher requirements for anyone seeking a gun license, including a four-hour class on firearm safety and passing an exam. It also enacted an assault-weapons ban and required registration of all firearms in the home.
These narrower gun laws have been consistently upheld despite numerous attempts to overturn them.
What next for Chicago?
In all likelihood, Chicago will follow Washington by introducing legislation that increases the restrictions on gun ownership â€“ including some of the same restrictions put in place by Washington. In a press conference Monday, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley said that the cityâ€™s legal counsel was currently redrafting the handgun ordinance â€śin a reasonable and responsible way to protect Second Amendment rights and protect Chicagoans from gun violence.â€ť
Chicago also has the option of creating a database of all guns sold in the city, which would require owners to bring in their guns for test firing by police. The ballistics information would then be stored in a database for use in the event that the gun was ever used in a crime.
â€śThereâ€™s a variety of laws short of handgun bans that could be adopted, and we would say are legally defensible,â€ť says Juliet Leftwich of Legal Community Against Violence, a San Francisco-based law center advocating gun-violence prevention.
But the more cities pursue these types of laws, the more they will encourage gun-rights advocates to seek to strike them down, experts say.
Mondayâ€™s ruling â€śopens up any state or local gun laws that go too far â€“ that are not truly effective in terms of public safety and are designed to discourage gun ownership,â€ť says Alan Gura, a lawyer who won the Washington case and represented the plaintiffs who challenged Chicagoâ€™s handgun ban.
â€śSome laws will be in trouble and some will survive,â€ť Mr. Gura says.
Gun-rights advocates are expected to track Chicagoâ€™s next steps. If the city â€śtakes an obstructionist approach to resist the [Supreme Court] opinion, theyâ€™re going to find out this will be a very expensive and lengthy process,â€ť says Gura.
â€śThey need to come to terms with reality. People have a meaningful constitutional right and [the city] needs to respect that and move on,â€ť he says.
Chicago mayor 'never giving up'
Yet if laws are written the right way, gun-control advocates are confident that they will withstand legal challenges. â€śAll of those challenges should fail,â€ť says Jonathan Lowy of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington.
What works, he says, are â€śstrong, common sense gun laws allowing law-abiding people guns in their home for self-defense.â€ť The Second Amendment does not prohibit laws that were drafted to prohibit gun trafficking, he adds.
For his part, Mayor Daley said Monday that he was â€śnever giving upâ€ť in this particular fight. He likened the National Rife Association to embattled oil giant BP: â€śIf you think BP is tough to tackle, this is tough to tackle."
IN PICTURES: The debate over gun rights