Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Thursday, September 16, 2010

"Self-Defense Is a Basic Right"

The biggest case in the Supreme Court this year was whether the Second Amendment means individuals have the right to keep and bear guns. The City of Chicago had banned handgun ownership, so the issue was the constitutionality of that law. The name of the case is McDonald v. City of Chicago. Many thought this issue had already been settled in favor of gun ownership by the High Court's decision two years ago in D.C. v. Heller. But that case merely held that the federal government could not ban handgun ownership, and the question remained as to whether the Second Amendment would be applied against state and local gun control laws.

In this year's case, Justice Sam Alito wrote for the Court that “Self-defense is a basic right, recognized by many legal systems from ancient times to the present day." The Second Amendment is incorporated against the States by virtue of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Chicago gun control law is thereby unconstitutional. This case took many months to decide, and the opinions of the several justices filled 214 pages, including contentious arguments between Justice Scalia and Justice Stevens, who was retiring after nearly 35 years on the bench. Justice Clarence Thomas agreed with the decision but wrote separately that the Second Amendment protection should be extended via the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, rather than the Due Process Clause. Justice Scalia wrote that, “I have acquiesced in the Court's incorporation of certain guarantees in the Bill of Rights ‘because it is both long established and narrowly limited.’"

Regardless of the varying reasons, the result is that all gun control laws, whether federal, state or local, are now subject to the protection of the right to keep and bear arms set forth in the Second Amendment. Conservatives have won this historic legal battle.

Listen to the radio commentary here:

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