Recent Supreme Court Ruling Protects 2nd Amendment Rights

Supporters of the U.S. Constitution’s 2nd Amendment right to bear arms provision got some welcome news from the U.S. Supreme Court last month when the court ruled that this constitutional right extends to every jurisdiction in the nation.

As some may recall, two years ago in their decision District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court struck down a Washington D.C. handgun ban. Following that decision, however, because Washington D.C. is a federal enclave, there was a question as to whether the Supreme Court’s decision applied beyond federal jurisdictions such as Washington, D.C. and applied to states and municipalities. In the Supreme Court’s latest decision, McDonald v. City of Chicago, the high court ruled that these second amendment protections also extend to gun control laws enacted at state and local levels.

Both the District of Columbia v. Heller case and the McDonald v. City of Chicago case involved those cities’ bans on the possession of handguns. In the Heller case, the Supreme Court ruled that D.C.’s law of prohibiting handguns in homes failed to pass constitutional muster. While the Court in the McDonald case did not specifically rule on the issue of whether Chicago’s handgun ban was constitutional, it did indicate that the precedence set by the Heller case should apply to the City of Chicago’s handgun statute. It then remanded the case back to the lower court to reconsider the constitutionality of the city’s handgun ban. Most legal experts now expect that the Chicago handgun ban also will be struck down.

Interestingly, the Supreme Court in the McDonald decision did note that the right to bear arms is not an unlimited right and that some regulatory measures can pass constitutional muster. Specifically, the court mentioned such longstanding regulatory measures such as prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill and laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive areas such as schools and government buildings are constitutional.

For us in New York state, it will be interesting to see how these Supreme Court decisions apply to gun control laws in our state. As I have written in prior columns, each year the Assembly majority touts a legislative gun-control package under the auspices that such legislation will make our streets and our communities safer. However, close inspection of the proposed legislation generally reveals that such proposals, if they were to become law, would do no such thing. Rather, they would result in simply punishing law-abiding gun owners.

The good news is that for now, based on these latest Supreme Court cases, it looks like any attempt to ban handguns in the home, whether by a local statute or on the state level, would be usurping our constitutional second amendment right to bear arms and, therefore, would not survive a court challenge. New York State already has some of the toughest gun control laws in the nation. While we in government need to ensure that we pass laws that will protect the citizenry, we should not overstate the rhetoric posed by gun control advocates. Rather, the state legislature and local governments need to seek a balance to our laws so as to provide for public protection and preserve our second amendment rights.

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