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Chicago in the spotlight.

This month, the Supreme Court is expected to issue its ruling in the combined cases of McDonald et al. v. City of Chicago and NRA et al. v. Village of Oak Park, Illinois, challenging Chicago's and Oak Park's handgun bans. In deciding whether the bans violate the Second Amendment, the court will more broadly declare whether the amendment prevents only Congress and federal enclaves, such as Washington, D.C., from infringing on the right to arms or whether--and if so, to what extent--it additionally prevents states and local jurisdictions from doing so.

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The two Illinois cases, now commonly referred to as McDonald, follow the Court's landmark 2008 Heller decision, which struck down Washington, D.C.'s handgun ban on Second Amendment grounds. In that decision, the Court said that historically, "the inherent right of self-defense has been central to the Second Amendment right," that "handguns are the most popular weapon chosen by Americans for self-defense in the home" and therefore, D.C.'s "complete prohibition of [handguns'] use is invalid."

Ultimately, however, McDonald was inspired by the Court's rulings over the last century, protecting other provisions of the Bill of Rights against state and local action, based upon the 14th Amendment's requirement that states respect individual rights enumerated in the Constitution. As the NRA pointed out both in briefs and oral argument before the Court, the 14th Amendment was intended to protect "the personal rights guaranteed and secured by the first eight amendments of the Constitution, such as freedom of speech and of the press [and] the right to keep and bear arms."

McDonald's outcome thus hinges on whether the court believes that the constitutionally protected individual right it recognized in Heller a mere two years ago--the right to keep and bear arms--deserves the same protection as other constitutionally protected rights, such as those of free speech, religion, the press and assembly.

Obviously, there's a lot at stake, but not quite as much as gun control supporters claim. Just as they did before Heller was decided, anti-gun activist groups exaggerated McDonald's potential ramifications. For example, the Brady Campaign claimed that protecting the Second Amendment against state and local gun control would lead to lower courts being "inundated with challenges to gun laws."

The justices on the Supreme Court know better, of course. The notion that protecting the right of Americans to keep and bear arms that are useful for legitimate purposes--such as defense of themselves and their country, hunting, training and competitions--will somehow lead to the wholesale nullification of laws prohibiting criminals or the mentally unbalanced from having guns is simply without basis.

What McDonald will decide, however, is whether states and cities will continue to be allowed to impose laws prohibiting--outright or in effect--the exercise of what Heller called "the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation."

Allowing Chicago, or any state or other city, to ban handguns, while merely prohibiting Washington, D.C., and federal enclaves from doing so, would be incompatible not only with Heller's endorsement of the right of an individual to possess the firearms he prefers for self-defense, but with the broader idea that all individuals are entitled to the same constitutionally protected rights regardless of where they live in our country. This is no less true for the right to keep and bear arms than it is for the right to vote, go to church, publish a political opinion or demonstrate against a government policy.

The Second Amendment survived in Heller by only a 5-4 vote, so the McDonald outcome is far from certain. Whatever the outcome, however, the NRA will remain committed to promoting the right to keep and bear arms among our fellow citizens and vindicating the judgment of our nation's founders. It's a mission I hope all gun owners will join us in carrying out.

To express your views on gun control to members of Congress, you can call your U.S. Senators at 202/224-3121 and your U S. Representative at 202/225-3121, or use the "Write Your Representatives" <http://capwiz.com/nra/dbq/officials/>feature under the "Take Action" section on the www.NRAILA.org <http://www.nraila.org/> website.

By Chris W. Cox

executive director, NRA Institute for Legislative Action
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Title Annotation:RIGHT TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS
Author:Cox, Chris W.
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Jun 16, 2010
Words:708
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