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New case tests Second Amendment’s reach

In a newly filed lawsuit in federal court in Chicago, two gun rights organizations and four individuals asked that the Second Amendment be extended to block strict gun laws at the state and local level.  “The Second Amendment right,” the complaint contended, “is incorporated as against the states and their political subdivisions pursuant to the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

The case, McDonald, et al., v. City of Chicago, et al. (District docket 08-3645), was filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago to challenge a city ordinance that bars registration of handguns with only a few exceptions, and that limits registration of other guns. The case was assigned to Senior District Judge Milton I. Shadur.  The complaint can be read here.

Because this is only a complaint to start a case, there is no full-scale argument defending the notion that the Amendment — now protecting an individual right to have a handgun for self-defense at home — applies to state and local government.  The Supreme Court, in finding an individual right by its ruling Thursday in District of Columbia v. Heller (07-290), said it was not deciding whether the Amendment went beyond federal laws (or laws of the federal capital in Washington, D.C.).  That is what the new lawsuit raises directly.

“The Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms is a privilege and immunity of United States citizenship which, pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment, states and their political subdivisions may not violate,” the complaint argues. “Handguns, as a class of weapons, are ‘arms’ whose possession by law-abiding adult citizens is protected by the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.”

Joining in the lawsuit is the Second Amendment Foundation, an advocacy group, and the Illinois State Rifle Association. The individuals in the case are Otis McDonald, a Chicago resident who says he lives in a high-crime neighborhood and has been threatened by drug dealers; Adam Orlov, who lives in Chicago and is a former police officer in Evanston, Ill., and Colleen and David Lawson, Chicago residents who say their home has been targeted by burglars.