Gun prohibitionists, unhappy with a series of significant court rulings since the landmark Heller decision in 2008 that affirmed the Second Amendment protects a fundamental individual civil right to keep and bear arms, have taken the tack that subsequent court rulings are narrow and not that important.
At best, this is delusional because three major cases have taken the gun rights argument to the political heart of the enemy – the state of Illinois – and beaten down Draconian firearms prohibitions on constitutional grounds.
The Second Amendment Foundation’s case in McDonald vs. City of Chicago, decided almost two years to the day after Heller, incorporated the Second Amendment to the states via the 14th Amendment. This ruling applied the Second Amendment to state and local gun laws, which is no small accomplishment.
It opened the door to constitutional challenges of laws that are clearly excessive in their reach and onerous in their application. The gun prohibition lobby, of course, likened this victory to the end of civilization as we know it, and then changed their message to suggest that the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms applies only to the confines of one’s home, which is tantamount to arguing that the First Amendment applies only to the newsroom.
Then came the Ezell case against the city of Chicago’s deliberately-prohibitive gun law, hastily adopted right after the McDonald ruling, that established training requirements for anyone wanting to have a handgun inside the city, but also made meeting those requirements impossible. The ordinance mandated gun range training, but prohibited gun ranges inside the city.
As noted by federal Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner in her concurring opinion, “… the city may not condition gun ownership for self-defense in the home on a prerequisite that the City renders impossible to fulfill within the city limits.”
Illinois, the only state in the union to still prohibit any kind of firearms carry outside the home for personal protection, has steadfastly refused to join the other 49 states in recognizing the right of self-defense beyond the threshold of one’s front or back door. A prohibition on bearing arms is insidious, because it attempts to nullify half of a constitutionally-protected civil right.
Our challenge in Moore vs. Madigan took that issue head-on, and we won again.
Our successful challenge to that prohibition has ramifications that reach all the way to the District of Columbia, where law-abiding citizens still may not carry a firearm outside of their home for personal protection. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals panel said that such a prohibition violates the constitution, so the District municipal government better take notice.
Despite the fact that anti-gunners may want to play down the significance of these rulings, the fact is we end 2012 with firearms civil rights in the strongest position they have enjoyed in generations. We intend to improve on that in the year ahead.
Alan Gottlieb is the founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation.