If anyone really doubted that the U.S. Supreme Court intends to overturn Chicago’s ban on handgun ownership, the justices’ comments during oral arguments this week should blow away those doubts.
But, regardless of arguments to the contrary, the decision almost certainly will not be the death knell for reasonable state and local gun control laws.
When the court struck down Washington, D.C., the decision was written by Justice Antonin Scalia, who besides being a sport hunter is nobody’s liberal. Here’s a key excerpt from his opinion:
“Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the amendment
or state analogues. The court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”
Scalia goes on to say that laws prohibiting “dangerous and unusual weapons” are “another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms,” specifically citing “weapons that are most useful in military service,” which sounds a lot like legalese for assault weapons. California has banned the sale and possession of military-style assault rifles since 1989.
Heller – the D.C. gun rights case – was a reasonable decision and would be a good model for the court’s eventual ruling in the Chicago case.
— Jim Sweeney