Tuesday, June 2, 2009

7th Circuit Punts Chicago Gun Case With Alacrity

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has issued its decision in McDonald v. Chicago, the "Chicago Gun Case." If you've had trouble getting the decision from the court's own webpage, here's a link that works and isn't likely to fail:
7th Circuit Decision, McDonald v. Chicago.

Now, if you're not familiar with the case so far, the short version goes like this:
  1. The Heller decision was handed down on June 26th, 2008. In it, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled that the 2nd Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms, and thus invalidates Washington, D.C.'s statute prohibiting the keeping of functional firearms and the owning of handguns.
  2. Within hours, Otis McDonald and company, along with the IL State Rifle Association and Second Amendment Foundation, filed suit against Chicago, claiming that the 2nd Amendment also invalidates its ban on handguns. The NRA followed suit soon after. Both cases ask the court to invalidate Chicago's statute, so they were merged by the court. The main difference in the two cases is that although both argue that the 2nd Amendment should be applied to Chicago because it should be incorporated by the 14th Amendment, they give different reasoning as to why the incorporation should be made.
  3. The federal court found in favor of Chicago, as expected, and the case was appealed the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals (The 7th.)
  4. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (The 9th) ruled in a different case, Nordyke v. King, that the 2nd Amendment is indeed incorporated via the 14th Amendment, which means that it does restrict the actions of cities and states, not just the federal government. This ruling, however, only applies within the 9th Circuit (basically the west coast and parts of the far west.)
  5. During oral arguments on May 26th, judges Posner, Easterbrook and Bauer made it clear that they had no interest in ruling on the question at hand. Their position was that the SCOTUS had ruled that the 2nd is not incorporated, and only the SCOTUS can overrule that decision. This is not apparently strictly true, but it's close enough to be a fig leaf for what the court wanted to do, which was keep their hands and reputations far away from any decision that the 2nd Amendment means something. Someone, they implied, will probably rule that those old cases were wrong and that the 2nd is incorporated against local and state governments . . . . . but at least it won't be them.
  6. Fast forward to today, literally a week after oral arguments, and the decision has come down as expected. We are on a fast track to the Supreme Court here, people. With a split between federal appellate circuits, it's certain that the Supreme Court will hear this case. Incorporation of the 2nd Amendment via the 14th could come down as early as next spring, and then the fun of dismantling and rebuilding not only Chicago gun laws, but also Illinois gun laws, will begin. For an idea of what is to come, take a look at all the lawsuits proliferating in California as its wacky gun-control laws are dragged out into the light and challenged one by one.

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