In one of the last great gun control stalwarts in the nation, the Second Amendment is ascendant.
In the space of about three years, the ability of law-abiding Chicago citizens to keep and bear arms has run the gamut from prohibitive to a now guaranteed right. The iron fist began loosening in 2010 with the landmark Supreme Court decision handed down in McDonald v Chicago, which asserted that the individual right to “keep and bear arms” applied to the states as well. The court, through a previous and similarly blockbuster decision in the District of Columbia v Heller (2008) case, found that an individual reserves for him or herself the right to keep and bear arms, separate of a militia, and in Chicago asserted that the States must comply with Heller as a consequence of the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Local governments were prohibited from infringing on that individual right.
But that certainly doesn’t mean localities must make it easy to get a gun. Chicago city council, complying with the mandate though not bowing easily, amended their city ordinance permitting individuals to possess a gun, yet still prohibiting citizens from carrying on their person.
Last year, however, the pendulum swung yet again as Illinois became the last state in the union to allow concealed carry permits. This was in response to another federal court case–this time in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals–who ruled it unconstitutional for Illinois to ban such permits. City officials, amusingly, were forced to amend city gun ordinances a second time, permitting citizens to carry concealed (the city began accepting applications this week). But their attempts to make gun ownership easy on Chicagoans wouldn’t die without a fight: they prohibited the purchase or sale of firearms within city limits.
Sorry, Chicago. To modify Newton’s famous Third Law, for every city ordinance limiting gun ownership, there’s an equal but opposing federal mandate deeming it unconstitutional. The courts weren’t finished bending the Chicago city council over a chair and tenderizing their collective posteriors with the Puddle of the Constitution.
On Monday, a District Court judge overturned Chicago’s ban on gun sales, stating that officials have an obligation to protect constitutional gun ownership and that “evidence does not support that the complete ban sufficiently furthers the purposes that the ordinance tries to serve,” that being the curbing of gun violence.
Would you like a cherry to crown the cake? Edmond E. Chang, the judge in the case, was an Obama appointee. We’ll continue once the guffaws have abated.
Chicago still maintains a ban on “assault” weapons, and given the successful attempts of other localities and states to pass such bans themselves, their manhandling by the federal courts will likely stop there.
Though, in my opinion, it ought not. It’s simply not incumbent upon Americans to justify to government why we should be allowed to possess a particular type of gun. The Second Amendment, and our system of self-governance, contains no prohibition on which guns we may own, except that we must be capable of “bearing” them. No specific exemption, even for guns of the time, were listed. Given that the Bill of Rights is written from the context of negative liberties–actions that government, not the People, may not do–the onus is, instead, on government to provide concrete rationale as to why Americans should not own a weapon, or provide restrictions for their use.
Bans on so-called assault rifles, which people can clearly “keep” and “bear” (contra to a cruise missile or nuclear warhead, a favorite canard of gun-control advocates) should be the next constitutional test. And if the federal courts’ treatment of Chicago gun ordinances amount to a bellwether, I like our chances.
Author’s note: This post has been edited for grammatical error since publication.