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2010-07-15 digital edition

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2010-07-15 / General Stories

Supreme Court Ruling is Another Key Victory in the Fight for Second Amendment Rights

By U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison

As the fight to protect the rights of American citizens to keep and bear firearms wages on, the Supreme Court of the United States recently handed down a decision that marks another significant victory for lawful gun owners. In the landmark case, McDonald v. City of Chicago, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that it is unconstitutional for state and local governments to unnecessarily restrict the gun rights of law-abiding individuals. With the decision, America’s highest court sent a clear message to those who seek to obscure the founding framers’ intent and to circumvent the Second Amendment: gun ownership is a constitutionally-protected right for all lawful citizens in our nation.

McDonald v. City of Chicago examined the issue of whether the Second Amendment applies to state and local governments through the Fourteenth Amendment, otherwise known as the Due Process Clause, of the U.S. Constitution. The McDonald case upholds the seminal 2008 case, District of Columbia v. Heller, in which the Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense. It was the judgment of the Supreme Court that the District of Columbia had violated that right with its draconian handgun prohibition and its ban of loaded, operable firearms for self-defense in the home.

Despite the Supreme Court’s clear ruling in Heller, several subsequent gun rights cases have attempted to skirt the precedent set in that landmark case. After the Seventh Circuit Federal Court heard arguments in McDonald, the federal court ruled that Heller only applied to federal jurisdictions, like the District of Columbia, and not to states and municipalities. Thus, it upheld Chicago’s punitive gun laws, which have prevented law-abiding residents from keeping guns in their homes for protection.

After the Seventh Circuit’s disappointing decision, I was relieved to learn that the Supreme Court would hear McDonald v. City of Chicago and make a final judgment, settling this constitutional question once and for all.

Leading up to the Supreme Court’s consideration of the case, Senator Jon Tester of Montana and I together led a bipartisan amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” brief asking the Court to hold the Second Amendment applicable to the states. Our brief was signed by 58 senators and 251 representatives - no other amicus brief in U.S. history has had as many Congressional supporters. Ultimately, the majority opinion of the Supreme Court was in agreement with our amicus brief. I applaud the Court for again affirming that the right to bear arms is an individual, fundamental right that is guaranteed and protected by the Constitution.

Just four days after the Supreme Court overturned Chicago’s gun ban, in brazen defiance of the Court’s ruling, the Chicago City Council approved a new gun control ordinance that will make sure the city clamps down on lawful individual gun ownership - once again imposing

the strictest laws in America. The new ordinance continues to place meritless restrictions on lawabiding citizens while undermining the intent of the Supreme Court ruling. This is just another reminder that the fight to protect Americans’ Second Amendment rights is ongoing.

The McDonald v. City of Chicago ruling also illustrates the consequential nature of Supreme Court nominations. In 2009, when the Senate was reviewing the record and statements of now-Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, I had serious reservations about her Second Amendment views. Seeking to allay those concerns, which were shared by many of my colleagues, Ms. Sotoyamor said, “I understand the individual right fully that the Supreme Court recognized in Heller.” However, in the McDonald v. City of Chicago decision, she voted with the minority to uphold Chicago’s gun ban, stating, “I can find nothing in the Second Amendment’s text, history, or underlying rationale that could warrant characterizing it as ‘fundamental’ [in seeking to] protect the keeping and bearing of arms for private self-defense purposes.”

The protection of fundamental, constitutionally-guaranteed rights is one of the reasons that the Senate’s duty to advise and consent on Supreme Court nominations is so serious. The Senate will soon vote on another lifetime appointment to our nation’s highest court. It is critical that senators scrutinize the nominee’s judicial philosophy and demonstrated adherence to the Constitution as we determine whether or not to support the nomination.

Kay Bailey Hutchison is the senior U.S. Senator from Texas and is the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Trans

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