It will take some time to digest all 214 pages of opinions in today’s Supreme Court ruling in a gun-rights case. But this much is clear: A 5-4 majority of justices said gun-ownership rights are “fundamental to the Nation’s scheme of ordered liberty,” and that city and state governments therefore can’t deny them.
Legal scholars will debate the way the justices went about affirming the “fundamental” nature of the Second Amendment; there was some disagreement even within the five-justice majority. But the key to the case, titled McDonald v. Chicago, was whether the Second Amendment is truly integral to our system of government.
As Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority, the Court had already answered that question in its Heller decision, which struck down a handgun ban in the District of Columbia:
Self-defense is a basic right, recognized by many legal systems from ancient times to the present day, and in Heller, we held that individual self-defense is “the central component” of the Second Amendment right. (Italics original)
If the thorniest of our policy debates are, to use a football analogy, played between the 40-yard-lines, Chicago’s ban on handguns, even those kept in homes for self-defense purposes, was an attempt to pin the pro-gun rights crowd inside its own 10-yard-line and keep it there. With that said, gun rights will continue to see pushes from policy makers on both sides of the issue. As Hans von Spakovsky wrote in a Heritage Foundation blog item:
The Court clearly said that some government regulation of guns is allowed. But how far can state and local governments go? How burdensome can their regulations be? Can they decide to allow gun ownership that will enable a homeowner to protect himself and his family in his home, but prohibit the concealed carrying of a handgun? All of these questions remain unanswered by today’s opinion that was decided by a narrow one-vote majority.
So, please: No comments about how this decision is “radical” or “dangerous” or anything of the sort. The only thing here that was radical was the Chicago ordinance that has now been struck down sent back to a lower court, which will almost certainly have to strike it down. [edited at 11:48 a.m.]