Supreme Court Gun Ruling Not End of the World


    It certainly was no surprise to me that Sen Jim Webb released a statement yesterday praising the Supreme Court decision in the Chicago gun ban case, McDonald v Chicago. The 5-4 decision declared Chicago’s ban on handgun ownership in the city unconstitutional.

    “I support today’s decision of the Supreme Court in the case of McDonald v. Chicago. With this decision, the Court has ruled that wholesale, sweeping bans and restrictions on firearm ownership cannot be enacted by state and local governments…I joined a number of my colleagues in filing an amicus brief in this case, in support of a gun owner seeking to overturn Chicago’s handgun ban,” Webb said.

    The ruling doesn’t immediately end the handgun ban in Chicago. It simply sends the case back to a lower court for a new ruling. It will be up to that U.S. District Court to re-hear the case and issue directives on exactly what the city can regulate about handgun ownership. The handgun ban was passed in Chicago in 1982, following the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan.

    Of course, Wayne LaPierre, the CEO of the National Rifle Association and a guy who started his political ventures as a legislative aide for the late Democratic Del. Vic Thomas of Vinton, wasn’t satisfied because city and state officials retain, according to Justice Samuel Alito, the right to place “reasonable restrictions” on gun ownership.

    I personally don’t think LaPierre would be satisfied even if he somehow could turn the United States into an armed camp, a place where every citizen could get whatever firepower was available, regardless of the right of the rest of us not to be bullied by armed intimidation. (The NRA even opposes any ban on so-called “cop-killer” ammunition or on any restriction on civilians owning military automatic weapons.)

    Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said that the court’s ruling left a “very narrow” definition of a person’s Second Amendment rights by saying that it focused simply on a person’s right to keep a gun in a home for self-defense. He did say he thought it would give criminals convicted of gun charges a way to challenge their convictions for those offenses.

    Chicago Mayor Richard Daley was most offended by the Supreme Court majority’s implication that individuals needed the right to own handguns because Chicago did not do enough to protect its citizens.

    “If (the) safety of…law abiding members of the community would be enhanced by the possession of handguns in the home for self-defense, then the Second Amendment right protects the rights of minorities and other residents of high-crime areas whose needs are not being met by elected public officials,” the majority opinion read.

    The ruling carries the name of 76-year-old Otis McDonald, who wanted to keep a handgun in his house for protection in the high-crime area of Chicago where he lives. Perhaps that situation helps explain why I agree with the Court’s conservative majority in this instance. I once had a similar situation in my own family, so I know how Mr. McDonald feels.

    As the neighborhood in which I was raised became more and more run down, with a rising crime rate, we children could not convince our mother to move out of the home she had lived in for fifty years. We were very concerned for her safety, but she was a strong-willed woman who insisted on making her own decisions. When she bought a handgun and learned how to shoot it, I admit that I felt better about her safety. I understand Otis McDonald’s situation.

    That doesn’t mean, however, that I agree with that stupid, NRA-inspired law passed by the last General Assembly, the one that said a person has some sort of right to carry a concealed weapon into an establishment that serves alcohol, as long as he or she doesn’t drink. My response at the time was, “How will a bartender or a security officer know if a person who is armed is drinking if the weapon is concealed? Is the bartender supposed to have x-ray vision?”

    However, in the case of McDonald v Chicago, I agree with my senator.

    • The Donkey

      The Supreme Court’s decision yesterday — and its earlier “Heller” decision — do not resolve the question of what standard a court must apply in deciding whether a particular gun regulation meets constitutional muster.

      The lower courts are divided as to whether a “strict” or “intermediate” level of constitutional scrutiny applies.

      As Solicitor General Kagan noted before the Judiciary Committee this afternoon, the Supreme Court can be expected to take up that issue in the next few years.  

    • im1

      Elaine, with 100% respect to your point of view, I respectfully disagree that handguns can promote safety.

      A recently completed UPenn study shows that if you are armed when you are attacked by someone with a gun, you are 4.5-5.5X MORE LIKELY TO BE SHOT if you are armed. That’s right, if victim and attacker are both armed, the victim is MORE LIKELY TO BE SHOT. This seems counter-intuitive because people believe attackers will be scared away by a gun but data show that pulling your own gun on an attacker is an escalating event that makes you more likely to be shot.

      Now what I say next sounds cold but I honestly really don’t care if you endanger yourself by keeping a gun in your house for protection as long as you make sure that it is locked up so that children or people who break into your house while you are not there can’t get your gun. Unfortunately Otis McDonald wants to keep his handgun laying on his bedside table and tucked in his belt. He already has two shotguns (and has reported several of his guns stolen in three previous break ins) but thinks that people will “think twice” before breaking in if he can have a handgun?!

      The unintended dangerous consequences of keeping guns lying around the house for protection dramatically outweigh the intended protective effect. I’ll leave you with these words and findings from a study  abstract in The Journal of Trauma:

      “For every time a gun in the home was used in a self-defense or legally justifiable shooting, there were four unintentional shootings, seven criminal assaults or homicides, and 11 attempted or completed suicides.

      Conclusions: Guns kept in homes are more likely to be involved in a fatal or nonfatal accidental shooting, criminal assault, or suicide attempt than to be used to injure or kill in self-defense.”

      Just look at the recently averted gun situation at Blacksburg Middle School to see the extremely scary unintended consequences:

      We don’t need more of this in Southwestern VA.

      Now I still support hunting and think you can safely store a gun in your house (locked up tight), I just don’t think you should use it for protection. To me the data are clear, an investment in an alarm system is a much smarter, more effective, less dangerous move than buying a gun for protection. Does any of this data sway your opinion?