The Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), had held that the Second Amendment protected the right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense, and consequently struck down a District of Columbia law that banned the possession of handguns in the home. The city of Chicago and the village of Oak Park, a Chicago suburb, had laws that were similar to the District of Columbia’s, but Chicago and Oak Park argued that their laws were constitutional because the Second Amendment had no application to the States.
Petitioners were Chicago residents who would like to keep handguns in their omes for self defense but were prohibited from doing so by Chicago’s firearms laws. The Code prohibited registration of most handguns, thus effectively banning handgun possession by almost all private citizens who reside in the City. After Heller, the hicago petitioners and two groups filed suit against the City in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. They sought a declaration that the handgun ban and several related Chicago ordinances violate the Second and ourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The District Court rejected plaintiffs’ argument that theChicago and Oak Park laws were unconstitutional. NRA, Inc. v. Oak Park, 617 F. Supp. 2d 752, 754 (ND Ill. 2008). The Seventh Circuit affirmed, relying on three 19thcentury cases—United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U. S. 542 (1876), Presser v. Illinois, 116 U. S. 252 (1886), and Miller v. Texas, 153 U. S. 535 (1894)—that were decided in the wake of Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in the Slaughter-House Cases, 16 Wall. 36 (1873). The Seventh Circuit described the rationale of those cases as “defunct” and recognized that they did not consider the question whether the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause incorporates the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. NRA, Inc. v. Chicago, 567 F. 3d 856, 857, 858 (2009). Nevertheless, the Seventh Circuit observed that it was obligated to follow Supreme Court precedents and it declined to predict how the Second Amendment would fare under the Supreme Court’s modern “selective incorporation” approach.
The question to be decided was whether the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms was incorporated in the concept of due process. In answering that question, another question which had to decided was whether the right to keep and bear arms was fundamental to the scheme of ordered liberty.
The Supreme Court after discussing in detail held that that the Framers and ratifiers of the Fourteenth Amendment counted the right to keep and bear arms among those fundamental rights necessary to our system of ordered liberty.
Municipal respondents advanced arguments which in effect tried to treat the right recognized in Heller as a second-class right.The municipal respondents argued that because many countries as England,Canada, Australia, Japan, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, and New Zealand either ban or severely limit handgun ownership, it must follow that no right to possess such weapons is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. Supreme Court held such argument inconsistent with the long-established standard as applied in incorporation cases. It further continued that the right to keep and bear arms, however, was not the only constitutional right that has controversial public safety implications. All of the constitutional provisions that impose restrictions on law enforcement and on the prosecution of crimes fall into the same category.
Municipal respondents also failed to cite any case in which Supreme Court had refrained from holding that a provision of the Bill of Rights was binding on the States on the ground that the right at issue had disputed public safety implications. Supreme Court also rejected municipal respondents’ argument that the Court should depart from its established incorporation methodology on the ground that making the Second Amendment binding on the States and their subdivisions was inconsistent with principles of federalism and would stifle experimentation. Municipal respondents and their amici also unsuccessfully complained that incorporation of the Second Amendment right would lead to extensive and costly litigation. Municipal respondents also asserted that, although most state constitutions protect firearms rights, state courts have held that these rights were subject to “interest-balancing” and have sustained a variety of restrictions. But Supreme Court following Heller, rejected the argument that the scope of the Second Amendment right should be determined by judicial interest balancing. Thus the Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment right was fully applicable to the States and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the Second Amendment right recognized in Heller. The judgment of the Court of Appeals was reversed, and the case was remanded for further proceedings.