Thursday is the 8th anniversary of McDonald v. City of Chicago. (Dave Workman)
Eight years ago today, June 28, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision nullified the Chicago handgun ban and more importantly, incorporated the Second Amendment to the states via the 14th Amendment in a case known as McDonald v. City of Chicago.
The majority opinion, written by Associate Justice Samuel Alito, spanned 45 pages and was supported by individual concurring opinions authored by Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. The dissents were authored by Justices John Paul Stevens and Stephen Breyer, the latter joined by Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor. Earlier this year, Stevens ignited a firestorm when he suggested that the Second Amendment should be repealed.
This anniversary comes at an interesting moment. Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement Wednesday. The Portland Oregonian and OregonLive.com have published a fascinating string of stories under a common heading “Guns: An American Conversation” that may not change any opinions but provides insights about why people like or hate firearms and the Second Amendment.
And guns in America are once again in the spotlight; two high-profile school shootings this year, following last October’s horrible incident in Las Vegas, have put the Second Amendment squarely in the crosshairs of the billionaire-financed gun prohibition lobby, which critics contend is determined to reduce the right to keep and bear arms to a strictly-regulated government privilege.
As one story in the Oregonian notes:
“A gun, by its nature, is a polarizing thing. A gun forces us to envision ourselves on either one end of it or the other. A gun is an equalizer, a tool, a symbol of liberty and power and slaughter and loss.”
Long story short, gun rights versus gun control is going to be a campaign issue this fall, heightened by what is bound to be an ugly battle over confirmation of a successor to Kennedy on the high court. It will also remind voters that elections count, and that will be underscored by how the November mid-term affects the balance in the U.S. Senate, where Supreme Court justices are confirmed. It will be important for Republicans to retain control, not only to fill Kennedy’s seat, but also allow Donald Trump to name another justice, should a vacancy occur.
Trump is also nominating more conservative judges to fill lower federal court vacancies. Much case law is decided in the lower federal circuits. Most cases never get to the high court.
The McDonald case was brought by the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), a non-profit “think tank” organization based in Bellevue, Washington. SAF was joined by the Illinois State Rifle Association and several private citizens. A separate case had been brought by the National Rifle Association and was briefly argued before the high court in conjunction with McDonald, but the ruling will forever be identified as “McDonald v. City of Chicago,” the SAF case, and this victory “put SAF on the map” as a powerhouse of gun rights litigation.
The late Otis McDonald was a gentle man in every sense. He simply wanted a firearm for home protection because he lived in a neighborhood where, as he once told this reporter during an interview, one might need a gun.
By no small coincidence, SAF is once again co-hosting the annual Gun Rights Policy Conference (GRPC) in Chicago this coming Sept. 21-23, with the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. Since 2011, this will be the third time that the GRPC will be held in Chicago. It brings together some of the brightest minds in the gun rights movement for a weekend of panel discussions and presentations, networking and camaraderie.
Gun rights are definitely an issue in the Pacific Northwest. It appears that an effort to ban so-called “assault weapons” in Oregon is on the rocks.
In neighboring Washington, the signature deadline is looming for Initiative 1639, a gun control measure that would deny young adults the right to purchase a semiautomatic modern sporting rifle (MSR), require training, a 10-day waiting period on MSR purchases, a fee (tax?) on such purchases, so-called “safe storage” requirements and annual checks on MSR buyers/owners to determine whether they can still legally own a gun.
If the stories published by the Oregonian are part of a “national conversation” about guns, that dialogue must begin with the acknowledgement that having a gun is a protected fundamental right, not a privilege, say gun advocates. Anything less isn’t conversation at all. It’s just words.