After Supreme Court Ruling, Whither Gun Control?

Not where you think, apparently

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On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment applies fully to the states, paving the way for an end to handgun bans like the one in Chicago. Immediate reaction to the ruling saw it as a tremendous win for gun-rights activists. Those in favor of tighter gun control were crushed. But what practical effect will this ruling have on firearms and daily life?

In the day since the ruling, reactions among liberals and gun-control activists seems split down the middle: half are concerned the Supreme Court is paving the way toward increased violence, and half are downplaying the ruling's importance, saying it might even help gun control. Conservatives are hailing the decision, arguing that it won't result in more violence because gun control, in their view, never worked.

  • Bring on the Violence "Congratulations, handgun fans," writes an irate Chris Cassidy at "States, cities and other localities are now constitutionally barred from protecting their citizens with common-sense gun regulations, including banning handguns in crowded metro areas wracked by gun violence."
  • Rising Murder Rate, Here We Come "Post-Heller," writes worried D.C. resident Adam Bink at Open Left, "the District of Columbia officials rightfully enacted stringent requirements in order to get a handgun, including demonstrating knowledge of firearms use and DC laws, completing a firearms safety course including at least four hours of instruction, fingerprinting, submitting photographs, background check, and others ... All of these are reasonable, and if they go down, DC will probably once again be known as the murder capital of the nation."
  • Please: Gun Control Doesn't Work Gun control began as a racist response to the "prospect of armed freedmen," argues David Rittgers at National Review, and though its racist connotations are now a thing of the past, support for it remains misguided. "Three times in the last month, Chicago residents have defended their homes or businesses with 'illegal' guns ... The real shame is that it took decades of political action, millions of dollars in litigation, and thousands of lives lost to end the preposterous idea that governments can reduce the number of victims of violent crime by first taking away their means of resistance."
  • Actually, Even for Gun-Control Supporters, This Isn't So Bad  Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, actually cheers the decision in a formal statement, explaining that the court actually upheld the constitutionality of "common-sense laws" geared at regulation. In a piece for AOL News, he expands on this, pointing out that, since the ruling that the D.C. handgun ban was unconstitutional, "most observers thought the Chicago Cubs had a better chance of ultimately prevailing than Chicago's handgun ban." Thus, this ruling was no surprise, and it was also fairly limited in scope: "It held only 'that the Second Amendment protects the right to possess a handgun in the home for the purpose of self-defense.' While bans on handguns in the home are no longer permitted, the Chicago and Oak Park, Ill., ordinances at issue in McDonald were the last of their kind in the nation. There are no more gun ban dominoes to fall in subsequent litigation." The ruling isn't "harmless," since it will "inspire the gun lobby ... to try to strike down vital, lifesaving gun laws throughout the country" and there's some risk of an "activist judge" taking them seriously. Yet he suspects most of the challenges will be rejected.
  • The Laws That May Yet Stand a Chance Matthew Scarola at Scotusblog says bans on assault weapons might well survive, as well as bans on "particular types of handguns, such as so-called 'junk guns,' which LCAV describes as 'cheap, easily concealed, and more likely to misfire or malfunction than other firearms.'" He also thinks laws "barring certain individuals from gun ownership ... are unlikely to be struck down," and "most extant state registration regimes are likely to be upheld."
  • A Game Plan for Chicago The Chicago Tribune, which seems shaken by the ruling, looks at where the city goes from here:
Mayor Richard Daley wants to register handguns, something already done with rifles and shotguns, so police and firefighters will know before they arrive at an address if there are weapons inside. (Legal weapons, at least.). The city might require basic safety training of every handgun owner. It could mandate the purchase of liability insurance.

Any of these measures, if carefully written, would stand a plausible chance of passing muster with the court and would do some good. What won't fly are laws whose real purpose is to discourage ownership by imposing major hassles and high costs.
  • We've Got the NRA Right Where We Want Them Brady Center vice president Dennis Henigan is nearly gleeful at The Huffington Post. "So far," he says, "the oddest reaction to the McDonald decision is from the NRA's Wayne LaPierre," who's worried yesterday's ruling "could end up eventually as a 'practical defeat.'" Henigan wonders if he's bracing for other gun laws to be upheld.
LaPierre may also be contemplating the future of the gun debate now that handgun bans are "off the table"... How long will the NRA's leadership be able to argue, with anything approaching a straight face, that the Second Amendment precludes gun regulations like background checks, limits on large-volume sales, safe storage requirements, assault weapon bans, owner licensing, and registration of gun sales, when both Heller and McDonald read like legal briefs for the constitutionality of those laws? And, more importantly, how long will the NRA's leadership be successful in using its legendary scare tactics to convince gun owners to oppose every gun regulation as a step down the "slippery slope" to a gun ban, when Heller and McDonald have taken gun bans "off the table"?
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.