2009-10-06 / Opinion

Supreme Court plans a closer look at gun ownership

Does the U.S. Constitution's protection of a citizen's right to bear arms override state and local limits on gun ownership? The Supreme Court will consider the issue this term.

A long-standing ban on ownership of handguns has been challenged and the court last week agreed to hear the case. A majority has already strongly affirmed the right of citizens to arm themselves, but we hope the court preserves the right of states and communities to enact sensible regulations.

Last year the court settled the argument over whether citizens have an individual right to keep firearms. By a 5-4 majority, it said the Second Amendment guarantees Americans the right to bear arms, including handguns, for protection and self-defense.

The court rejected the belief that the Second Amendment's guarantee was limited to those taking up arms for military service. However, its rejection of a federal ban on handgun ownership in Washington, D.C. did not settle the question of whether states and cities are bound by its interpretation of the Second Amendment

Now that the court is prepared to consider a challenge to Chicago's ban on handgun ownership, many believe that the court is likely to outlaw state and local handgun bans.

Yet the majority opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia expressed concern about the problem of gun violence. Scalia also commented that the right to bear arms can be limited by prohibiting ownership of guns by convicted felons and the mentally ill. He indicated that the extent of permissible government regulation would be decided in future cases.

So when the court hears arguments on McDonald v. Chicago early next year, we hope the city and its allies not only defend the city's ban, but emphasize that local standards should play an important role in regulating gun ownership.

If local and state gun regulations are outlawed, too many outlaws may start carrying guns.

— Questions? Comments? Contact Kristen Schulze Muszynski or Nick Cowenhoven at 282-1535 or kristenm@journaltribune.com or nickc@journaltribune.com.

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