U.S. Supreme Court Extends 2nd. Amendment Gun Rights to Strike Down Restrictive State Gun Regulation

The U.S. Supreme Court today found that the constitutional right to bear arms applies to local and state efforts to regulate guns, a ruling that could place limits on some gun control laws across the country.

The 5-4 ruling could be particularly important in California, which has some of the strictest gun laws of any state. Legal experts have predicted that a ruling applying the Second Amendment to the states could open the door to a rash of legal challenges to California gun regulations, including the long-standing assault weapons ban.

The Supreme Court ruling also could have a direct impact on a lengthy legal battle over Alameda County’s ordinance banning gun possession on county property. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year put that case on hold pending the outcome of the decision in the Supreme Court.

In today’s ruling, the justices did again emphasize that the Second Amendment does not preclude “common sense” gun regulation by local and state governments. The decision, however, puts some limits on how far such regulation can go, which gun rights advocates are expected to try to exploit in challenging other laws.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion, concluding that a Chicago-area ban on handguns in the home may violate the constitutional right to bear arms. Specifically, the high court found that the Second Amendment does apply to a law such as Chicago’s, the first time the justices have applied that right to local and state governments. The courts will now have to evaluate whether Chicago’s law does indeed go too far under the Second Amendment.

The Supreme Court in 2008 ruled that the Second Amndment applies to federal gun regulations in striking down a Washington, D.C., handgun ban, but that left the state and local issue unresolved because the District of Columbia is a federal enclave.

In deciding that issue, the Supreme Court was split down its traditional liberal vs. conservative lines. Alito wrote that there is a long history of precedent to suggest the right to bear arms should apply to the states, calling that right “among the most fundamental rights necessary to our system of ordered liberty.”

The majority emphasized that the right is particularly important in the home, and that Chicago’s law is the type that is most intrusive and that such restrictions are uncommon. There are no current bans on handguns in the home in Northern California cities.

Justice John Paul Stevens dissented from today’s ruling, and Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a separate dissent joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.

Stevens warned that the court had left state and local efforts to reduce gun violence vulnerable, saying the “consequences could prove far more destructive — quite literally — to our nation’s communities and to our constitutional structure.”

Quoted from Mercury News Service

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