WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court held Monday that the Constitution's
Second Amendment restrains government's ability to significantly limit
"the right to keep and bear arms," advancing a recent trend by the John
Roberts-led bench to embrace gun rights.
By a narrow, 5-4 vote, the justices signaled, however, that less severe restrictions could survive legal challenges.
for the court in a case involving restrictive laws in Chicago and one
of its suburbs, Justice Samuel Alito said that the Second Amendment
right "applies equally to the federal government and the states."
court was split along familiar ideological lines, with five
conservative-moderate justices in favor of gun rights and four liberals
opposed. Chief Justice Roberts voted with the majority.
ago, the court declared that the Second Amendment protects an
individual's right to possess guns, at least for purposes of
self-defense in the home.
That ruling applied only to federal
laws. It struck down a ban on handguns and a trigger lock requirement
for other guns in the District of Columbia, a federal city with a
unique legal standing. At the same time, the court was careful not to
cast doubt on other regulations of firearms here.
proponents almost immediately filed a federal lawsuit challenging gun
control laws in Chicago and its suburb of Oak Park, Ill, where handguns
have been banned for nearly 30 years. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun
Violence says those laws appear to be the last two remaining outright
Lower federal courts upheld the two laws, noting that
judges on those benches were bound by Supreme Court precedent and that
it would be up to the high court justices to ultimately rule on the
true reach of the Second Amendment.
The Supreme Court already has
said that most of the guarantees in the Bill of Rights serve as a check
on state and local, as well as federal, laws.
did not explicitly strike down the Chicago area laws, ordering a
federal appeals court to reconsider its ruling. But it left little
doubt that they would eventually fall.
Still, Alito noted that
the declaration that the Second Amendment is fully binding on states
and cities "limits (but by no means eliminates) their ability to devise
solutions to social problems that suit local needs and values."