Washington The Supreme Court said Wednesday it will consider a challenge to Chicago’s ban on handguns, opening the way for a ruling that could set off a vigorous new fight over state and local gun controls across the nation.
A victory for gun-rights proponents in the Chicago case is considered likely, even by supporters of gun control. If the court rules that the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms doesn’t allow the city’s outright handgun ban, it could lead to legal challenges to less-restrictive laws that limit who may own guns, whether firearms must be registered and even how they must be stored.
The court last year moved in the direction of voiding tough gun control laws when it struck down a prohibition on handguns in the District of Columbia, a city with unique federal status. Now the court will decide whether that ruling should apply to local and state laws as well. The court will hear arguments in the case early next year, and a ruling probably would follow in the spring.
The court has said previously that most, but not all, rights laid out in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights serve as checks on state as well as federal restrictions. Separately, 44 state constitutions already enshrine gun rights.
Though faced with potential limits from the high court on their ability to enact laws and regulations in this area, 34 states weighed in on the gun-rights side before the justices agreed to take the case Wednesday, an indication of the enduring strength of the National Rifle Association and its allies.
The gun case was among several the court added to its docket for the term that begins Monday. Others include:
• A challenge to part of a law that makes it a crime to provide financial and other aid to any group designated a terrorist organization.
• A dispute over when new, harsher penalties can be given to sex offenders who don’t register with state sex offender databases.
• Whether to throw out a human rights lawsuit against a former prime minister of Somalia who is accused of overseeing killings and other atrocities. The issue is whether a federal law gives the former official, Mohamed Ali Samantar, immunity from lawsuits in U.S. courts.
In the gun case, outright handgun bans appear to be limited to Chicago and suburban Oak Park, Ill. But a ruling against those ordinances probably would “open up all the gun regulations in the country to constitutional scrutiny, of which there are quite a few,” said Mark Tushnet, a Harvard Law School professor whose recent book “Out of Range” explores the often bitter national debate over guns.