McDonald v. Chicago

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Chicago resident Otis McDonald
McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. ___ (2010), was a landmark decision of the Supreme Court of the United States on the issue of gun rights. The Court held that the right of an individual to "keep and bear arms" protected by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution is incorporated by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and applies to the states. The decision cleared up the uncertainty left in the wake of District of Columbia v. Heller as to the scope of gun rights vis-à-vis the states.

On June 28, 2010, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit's decision in NRA v. Chicago and remanded it back to Seventh Circuit to resolve conflicts between certain Chicago gun restrictions and the Second Amendment. The Court of Appeals had upheld a Chicago ordinance banning the possession of handguns as well as other gun regulations affecting rifles and shotguns, citing United States v. Cruikshank, Presser v. Illinois, and Miller v. Texas.[1] The petition for certiorari was filed by Alan Gura, the attorney who had successfully argued Heller, and Chicago-area attorney David G. Sigale.[2] The Second Amendment Foundation and the Illinois State Rifle Association sponsored the litigation on behalf of several Chicago residents, including retiree Otis McDonald.[3]


[edit] Lower court background

The trial court entered judgment in favor of the City of Chicago on December 18, 2008.[4] The decision was appealed to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and combined with a similar case, NRA v. Chicago. Oral argument was May 26, 2009, and the court issued its opinion on June 28, 2009, affirming the trial court's decision that the Chicago and Oak Park gun regulations pass constitutional muster.[5]

The Second Amendment Foundation appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court for certiorari on behalf of their plaintiffs. Certiorari for McDonald was granted on September 30, 2009.[6] The NRA separately filed on behalf of their plaintiffs, and on January 25, 2010 the Supreme Court granted the NRA's motion for divided argument.[7] Oral argument took place on March 2, 2010.[8][9] On June 28, 2010, the High Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the Second Amendment was incorporated under the Fourteenth Amendment, subjecting Chicago's gun ordinances to the requirements of the Federal Second Amendment.[10]

[edit] McDonald v. Chicago as compared to NRA v. Chicago

Despite being consolidated at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, the cases are different in scope in terms of the specific regulations challenged and the legal argument for applying the Second Amendment against state and local governments. The cases were appealed separately to the U.S. Supreme Court.[11]

[edit] Regulations challenged

The NRA case is focused on the fact that Chicago's gun registration laws do not allow the registration of handguns. It should be noted that in the District of Columbia v. Heller, "The Court also recognized a distinction between weapons "in common use at the time" and weapons that were considered dangerous and unusual..."[12]

McDonald challenges four broad aspects of Chicago's gun registration law, which, according to the plaintiffs:[13]

  • Prohibit the registration of handguns, thus effecting a broad handgun ban
  • Require that guns be registered prior to their acquisition by Chicago residents, which is not always feasible
  • Mandate that guns be re-registered annually, with another payment of the fee
  • Render any gun permanently non-registrable if its registration lapses

[edit] Legal basis for incorporation

All of the post-Heller cases, including McDonald, NRA v. Chicago, Nordyke and Maloney, argued that the Second Amendment, in addition applying to federal jurisdictions, should also be applied against state and local governments, using a judicial process called selective incorporation. Selective incorporation involves convincing the court that a right is "fundamental" by being “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty” or “deeply rooted in our nation’s history and traditions” as defined most recently in the Supreme Court case Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U.S. 145 (1968), which incorporated the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial and applied it to the states.

In addition to claiming the Second Amendment should be incorporated through the selective incorporation process, McDonald is unique among post-Heller gun cases in that it asked the court to overturn the Slaughter-House Cases, 83 U.S. 36 (1873). Slaughter-House determined that the 14th Amendment's Privileges or Immunities Clause did not apply the Bill of Rights to the actions of states (and by extension, local governments). If it had been overturned, the Selective Incorporation process may have become unnecessary, since the entire Bill of Rights, including the 2nd Amendment, would arguably be applied against the states.[14]

In attempting to overturn Slaughter-House, this case garnered the attention and support of both conservative and liberal legal scholars interested in its potential application in areas outside of firearms law. Their interest was that if Slaughter-House had been overturned, it would have been possible that constitutional guarantees such as the right to a jury in civil cases, right to a grand jury in felony cases, and other parts of the Bill of Rights, as well as future court rulings and existing federal precedent, not universally guaranteed in actions by the states, would have been applied against the states automatically.[15][16][17]

In his concurring opinion, Justice Thomas alone supported overturning the Slaughter-House and Cruikshank decisions,[18] proposing that "the right to keep and bear arms is a privilege of American citizenship that applies to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment’s Privileges or Immunities Clause."[19]

[edit] Amici curiae

Thirty-three amicus curiae ("friends of the court") for this case have been filed with the Clerk of the Supreme Court.[20]

One of these briefs was filed by U.S. senators Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R, TX) and John Tester (D, MT) and U.S. representatives Mark Souder (R, IN) and Mike Ross (D, AR) asking the Supreme Court to find in favor of the petitioners and rule that the Second Amendment does apply to the states.[21] The brief was signed by 58 senators and 251 representatives, more members of Congress than any amicus curiae brief in history.[22] Furthermore, thirty-two states under the aegis of Texas (and California independently) also filed amici curiae.[23]

[edit] Decision

Justice Alito, in writing for the majority, concluded "that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the Second Amendment right recognized in Heller."[24] Justice Thomas, writing a separate opinion, reached the incorporation issue on different grounds, using instead the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to reach the same result of incorporation.[25] The opinion also re-affirmed that certain firearms restrictions mentioned in District of Columbia v. Heller, such as those "prohibit[ing]...the possession of firearms by felons or mentally ill," as well as "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" are all permissible.[26]

[edit] Reception

The initial reactions to the ruling have been favorable from both sides of the gun politics debate. Both the National Rifle Association[27] and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence[28] have issued statements that they feel vindicated or pleased by the Supreme Court's holding. However, the court did not include a "clarification of the standard for review" as requested by the Brady group in their amicus brief.[29] In a discussion on the day of the ruling Wayne LaPierre of the NRA and Paul Helmke of the Brady Center both agreed that the ruling protected specifically against bans on handguns for self protection in the home. But as to the general question of gun laws not covered in McDonald; a large number of lawsuits will be needed in order to determine whether any other existing gun regulations might also be unconstitutional. Wayne LaPierre expressed caution that the NRA has "a lot of work ahead" attempting to overturn other gun control regulations not covered by McDonald. And Paul Helmke explained that he expected that the NRA is "going to lose most of those lawsuits".[30]

[edit] Related cases

The day after Heller was filed the National Rifle Association filed five similar lawsuits challenging local gun bans:

Other notable post-Heller Second Amendment court cases:

  • Nordyke v. King, 563 F.3d 493 (9th. Cir. 2009) Held that the 2nd Amendment did apply to the states in the Ninth Circuit, though the ruling has since been vacated for en banc reconsideration, and the Alameda County, California prohibition of firearms on county property remains constitutional pending the outcome of McDonald v. Chicago.
  • Maloney v. Rice (a.k.a. Maloney v. Cuomo and Maloney v. Spitzer), 554 F.3d 56 (2d. Cir. 2009) Held that the 2nd Amendment does not apply to the states in the Second Circuit. The case involved a state ban on Nunchaku sticks (a martial arts weapon).
  • State of Washington v. Sieyes The Washington Supreme Court held that the 2nd Amendment is incorporated and applies to Washington State, via the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
  • The Commonwealth V. Runyan, 456 Mass. 230 (2010) The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts held that Heller did not apply to the Massachusetts state legislature and that the gun locks ordered under Massachusetts law are different than those regulated in Heller.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. National Rifle Ass'n of Amer., Inc. v. City of Chicago, National Rifle Ass'n of Amer., Inc. v. City of Chicago, 567 F.3d 856, 857 (7th Cir. 2009)
  2. Taff, Mark. "SAF Files Lawsuit Challenging Chicago’s Handgun Ban"
  4. Gilmer, Marcus (December 18, 2008). "Chicago Handgun Ban Upheld". Chicagoist.
  5. Robinson, Mike (June 2, 2009). "Federal Appeals Court Upholds Ban on Handguns". Chicago Tribune.
  6. Schorsch, Kristen. "Supreme Court to hear Chicago gun case" Chicago Breaking News
  7. U.S. Supreme Court Grants NRA Motion for Divided Argument in McDonald v. City of Chicago, February 18, 2010
  8. Miller, Erin (March 2, 2010). Podcasts: McDonald v. City of Chicago SCOTUSblog
  9. Liptak, Adam (March 2, 2010). "Supreme Court Still Divided on Guns". The New York Times.
  10. Mears, Bill (June 28, 2009). "Court rules for gun rights, strikes down Chicago handgun ban". CNN.
  11. A new Second Amendment case SCOTUSblog July 4, 2009
  13. » FAQs
  14. "[T]he words 'No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States' seems to me an eminently reasonable way of expressing the idea that henceforth the Bill of Rights shall apply to the States." Erwin Chemerinsky et al., Constitutional Law § 6.3.2 (3d ed. 2006) (quoting Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U.S. 145, 166 (1968) (Black, dissenting))
  15. Liberals Use Supreme Court Gun Case to Bolster Other Rights
  16. "Constitutional Accountability Center filed brief in NRA v. Chicago"
  17. Brief for Constitutional Law Professors as Amici Curiae
  18. slip op., at 52-54 (Thomas, J., concurring)
  19. slip op., at 1 (Thomas, J., concurring)
  20. Merit Briefs for February Supreme Court Cases, Term 2009-2010 American Bar Association
  21. Brief for Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson et al. as Amici Curiae
  22. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson press release, November 23, 2009
  24. McDonald, at ___-___ (slip op., at 44)
  25. SCOTUS blog
  26. McDonald, at ___-___ (slip op., at 39-40)
  27. Statement by Wayne LaPierre Executive Vice President, NRA and Chris W. Cox Executive Director, NRA-ILA Regarding U.S. Supreme Court Decision McDonald v. City of Chicago
  28. Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence: Media
  29. Brief for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence et al. as Amici Curiae
  30. "After Supreme Court Ruling, Cities Face Restructuring of Gun Laws". Interviewer: Gwen Ifill. NewsHour. PBS. June 28, 2010.
  31. "NRA Eyes More Targets After D.C. Gun-Ban Win" NPR

[edit] External links

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