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On June 28, in a 5-4 decision, the United States Supreme Court sounded the death knell for the City of Chicago’s ordinance banning handguns in Chicago. The Court held that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution applies to states and municipalities, and effectively extended the Court’s holding in the District of Columbia v. Heller case to states and local governments. 

In Heller, the Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to possess handguns. The Supreme Court struck down the District of Columbia’s federal law banning the possession of firearms in the district. The Court, however, did not decide whether its holding applied to state or municipal laws. That issue was resolved in the City of Chicago case. 

While the Court in Heller struck down a law that prohibited the possession of handguns in the District of Columbia, the Court made clear that its decision should not be construed as a prohibition of all regulation of firearms. In the City of Chicago case, the Court reiterated this view. 

The Court said, “The right to keep and bear arms is not ‘a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.’ … We made clear in Heller that our holding did not cast doubt on such longstanding regulatory measures as ‘prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill,’ ‘laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.’ …We repeat those assurances here.” 

The NRA’s Case Against Evanston

The decision will likely have implications in the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) lawsuit challenging Evanston’s gun ordinance. After the Supreme Court rendered its decision in the Heller case, the NRA filed a lawsuit against the City seeking to knock out Evanston’s ordinance that banned handguns in the City.

After the NRA filed suit, Evanston amended its gun ordinance to permit residents to possess handguns in the City if they are kept solely at the owner’s residence for “self-protection.” The City hoped this would moot the NRA’s lawsuit. 

 The NRA reacted, however, by filing an amended complaint which alleges that Evanston’s gun ordinance, as amended, is still defective because it does not permit a gun owner to transport a gun to his or her home, and does not permit a gun to be possessed for purposes other than self-defense in the home. 

 On April 27, Judge Marvin Aspen denied Evanston’s motion to dismiss the NRA’s amended complaint. The case was stayed, however, pending the Supreme Court decision on whether the Second Amendment applied to states and municipalities. In light of the Supreme Court’s June 28 decision, the NRA’s case against Evanston will likely proceed. 

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl told the RoundTable, “The City is going to take a look at the [Supreme Court’s] decision and study it to determine what avenues we can take to protect the citizens of Evanston. We will do everything we can within the confines of the law to protect our citizens.” 

Police Chief Richard Eddington told the RoundTable the Police Department “will continue to enforce the laws of the State of Illinois.”

He added, “We have found that in most gun-violence situations, there’s always a myriad of offenses we can charge [the suspect] with. … Most of the gun violence we see is engaged in by people who have already decided to break several laws: transporting, buying and selling controlled substances [for example]. And these activities have gone on despite the gun ban.” 

Asked about whether the results of the Supreme Court decision would result in greater risk of harm for police officers, Chief Eddington said, “Our officers will continue to be aware of those hazards that come with the job.”