The Supreme Court overturned a Chicago ban on handguns, ruling that the Second Amendment applies to states.
A 5-4 decision ruled that the Constitution's guarantee on the right to "keep and bear arms" prohibits states — and, in this case, the city of Chicago — from banning the possession of handguns, reversing a lower court's ruling and remanding it for further proceedings.
"We have previously held that most of the provisions of the Bill of Rights apply with full force to both the Federal Government and the States," Justice Samuel Alito wrote. "Applying the standard that is well established in our case law, we hold that the Second Amendment right is fully applicable to the States."
The court also emphasized, however, that some regulation of firearms could be permissible under the Constitution, such as prohibitions on guns in "sensitive places" or restrictions on owning guns among felons and the mentally ill.
Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Center, a group advocating gun-control laws, said the organization was heartened by language it saw in the decision that would allow for "common-sense gun laws."
"We are reassured that the court has rejected, once again, the gun-lobby argument that its ‘any gun, for anybody, anywhere’ agenda is protected by the Constitution," Helmke said in a statement. "The court again recognized that the Second Amendment allows for reasonable restrictions on firearms, including who can have them and under what conditions, where they can be taken and what types of firearms are available."
The high court two years ago struck down Washington's handgun ban in the District of Columbia v. Heller case. But the city of Chicago contended its ban was still legal because the Second Amendment, which addresses gun rights, applied only to the federal government.
The court rejected that argument, with its five conservative justices — including Justice Anthony Kennedy — voting to strike down the law. The court's four more liberal justices, including Justice John Paul Stevens, dissented.
Stevens is retiring from the court at the end of this term.
The Senate is taking up hearings on Monday on President Barack Obama's pick to fill Stevens's spot on the bench, Elena Kagan. The gun case is almost certain to find its way into the questioning of Kagan during hearings throughout the week.
The case decided Monday is McDonald v. City of Chicago.