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Archive for Sunday, February 28, 2010

Supreme Court scrutinizes gun control

February 28, 2010

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Guns line the walls of the firearms reference collection Sept. 28, 2007, at the Washington Metropolitan Police Department headquarters.

Guns line the walls of the firearms reference collection Sept. 28, 2007, at the Washington Metropolitan Police Department headquarters.

— Gun control advocates are hoping they can win by losing when the Supreme Court rules on state and local regulation of firearms.

The justices will be deciding whether the right to possess guns guaranteed by the Second Amendment — like much of the rest of the Bill of Rights — applies to states as well as the federal government. It’s widely believed they will say it does.

But even if the court strikes down handgun bans in Chicago and its suburb of Oak Park, Ill., that are at issue in the argument to be heard Tuesday, it could signal that less severe rules or limits on guns are permissible.

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence is urging the court not to do anything that would prevent state and local governments “from enacting the reasonable laws they desire and need to protect their families and communities from gun violence.”

By some estimates, about 90 million people in the U.S. own a total of some 200 million guns.

Roughly 30,000 people in the United States die each year from guns; more than half of them are suicides. An additional 70,000 are wounded.

The new lawsuits were begun almost immediately after the court’s blockbuster ruling in 2008 that struck down the District of Columbia’s handgun ban. In that case, the court ruled for the first time that individuals have a right to keep guns for self-defense and other purposes. Because the nation’s capital is a federal enclave, that ruling applied only to federal laws.

The challenges to the Chicago area laws, which are strikingly similar to the Washington law, are part of an aggressive push by gun rights proponents in the courts and state legislatures.

Courts are considering many gun laws following the justice’s 2008 decision. Massachusetts’ highest state court is examining the validity of a state law requiring gun owners to lock weapons in their homes.

Two federal appeals courts have raised questions about gun possession convictions of people who previously had been convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors. A suit in Washington challenges the capital’s ban on carrying loaded guns on public streets.

Lawmakers in several states are pushing for proposals favored by the National Rifle Association and other gun rights groups. The Virginia Legislature is considering repealing a law that limits handgun purchases to one a month. That law was enacted in 1993 because Virginia was the No. 1 supplier of guns used in crimes in other states. A separate proposal in Virginia would allow people with a concealed-weapon permit to take hidden guns into restaurants that sell alcohol, as long as those patrons don’t drink.

Chicago is defending its gun laws at the high court. Mayor Richard Daley said a ruling against his city would spawn even more suits nationwide and lead to more gun violence.

“How many more of our citizens must needlessly die because guns are too easily available in our society?” Daley said at a Washington news conference last week, which also included the parents of a Chicago teenager who was shot on a bus as he headed home from school.

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