McDonald v. Chicago (2010)

President George W. Bush appointed Justice Samuel Alito, author of this opinion, to the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court Case.

In 2008, in the Heller decision, the Court upheld citizens’ rights to bear arms and shot down a federal policy in the District of Columbia that essentially banned handgun ownership to general citizens.  In 2010, Citizens challenged Chicago city policies that they said infringed upon hand guns. Chicago required all gun owners to register guns, and the city invariably refused to allow citizens to register handguns, creating an effective ban. The lead plaintiff, Otis McDonald, pointed to the dangers of his crime-ridden neighborhood and how the city’s ban had rendered him without self-defense, and argued that the Second Amendment should have prevented this. His attorneys also attempted to take the Heller decision further, extending its holding to the state governments via the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause. The Court voted 5:4 for McDonald and applied the Second Amendment to the states via the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause. Read the passage and answer the questions that follow.

. . . Self-defense is a basic right, recognized by many legal systems from ancient times to the present, and the Heller Court held that individual self-defense is ‘the central component’ of the Second Amendment right . . . the Court found that this right applies to handguns because they are ‘the most preferred firearm in the nation to ‘keep’ and use for protection of one’s home and family,’ It thus concluded that citizens must be permitted ‘to use [handguns] for the core lawful purpose of self-defense.’ Heller also clarifies that this right is ‘deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and traditions.’ A survey of the contemporaneous history also demonstrates clearly that the Fourteenth Amendment’s Framers and ratifiers counted the right to keep and bear arms among those fundamental rights necessary to the Nation’s system of ordered liberty . . . After the Civil War, the Southern States engaged in systematic efforts to disarm and injure African Americans. These injustices prompted the 39th Congress to pass the Freedmen’s Bureau Act of 1866 and the Civil Rights Act of 1866 to protect the right to keep and bear arms. Congress, however, ultimately deemed these legislative remedies insufficient, and approved the Fourteenth Amendment. Today, it is generally accepted that that Amendment was understood to provide a constitutional basis for protecting the rights set out in the Civil Rights Act. In Congressional debates on the proposed Amendment, its legislative proponents in the 39th Congress referred to the right to keep and bear arms as a fundamental right deserving of protection. Evidence from the period immediately following the Amendment’s ratification confirms that that right was considered fundamental . . . Majority Opinion by Mr. Justice Samuel Alito

1. What does the opinion say about self-defense?

2. What era, events, and people does the Opinion refer to in terms of keeping and bearing arms?

3. How is the Fourteenth Amendment relevant to this case?