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High court strikes down Chicago handgun ban

In another dramatic victory for firearm owners, the Supreme Court has ruled unconstitutional Chicago, Illinois’, 28-year-old strict ban on handgun ownership, a potentially far-reaching case over the ability of state and local governments to enforce limits on weapons.

A 5-4 conservative majority of justices on Monday reiterated its 2-year-old conclusion that the Constitution gives individuals equal or greater power than states on the issue of possession of certain firearms for self-protection.

“It cannot be doubted that the right to bear arms was regarded as a substantive guarantee, not a prohibition that could be ignored so long as states legislated in an evenhanded manner,” wrote Justice Samuel Alito.

The court grounded that right in the due process section of the 14th Amendment. The justices, however, said local jurisdictions still retain the flexibility to preserve some “reasonable” gun-control measures currently in place nationwide.

In dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer predicated far-reaching implications. “Incorporating the right,” he wrote, “may change the law in many of the 50 states. Read in the majority’s favor, the historical evidence” for the decision “is at most ambiguous.”

He was supported by Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.

At issue was whether the constitutional “right of the people to keep and bear arms” applies to local gun control ordinances, or only to federal restrictions. The basic question had remained unanswered for decades, and gave the conservative majority on the high court another chance to allow Americans expanded weapon ownership rights.

A key question was how far the court would apply competing parts of the 14th Amendment to preserve some “reasonable” gun control measures currently in place nationwide.

The appeal was filed by a community activist in Chicago who sought a handgun for protection from gangs. Otis McDonald told CNN outside his South Side home that he wants a handgun to protect himself and his family from the violence in his neighborhood. “That’s all I want, is just a fighting chance,” he said. “Give me the opportunity to at least make somebody think about something before they come in my house on me.”

His application for a handgun permit was denied in a city with perhaps the toughest private weapons restrictions in the nation.

The justices two years ago affirmed an individual’s right to possess such weapons, tossing out restrictive laws in the federal enclave of the District of Columbia.

Originally posted on CNN.

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