Jacquelyn Martin/AP
Dick Heller

Cities Vie over Gun Ownership Laws

August 18, 2008 02:38 PM
by Anne Szustek
Several U.S. metropolitan areas are wrestling with their firearm regulations in the wake of a June Supreme Court ruling that threw out a Washington, D.C., handgun ban.

30-Second Summary

Some two months after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in D.C. vs. Heller that Washington’s handgun ban violated the Second Amendment, San Francisco is facing a lawsuit from the National Rifle Association over a handgun ban by residents of public housing. Oak Park, Ill., a Chicago suburb bordering the city, is struggling to keep its gun control laws in tact. Three other Chicago suburbs—Wilmette, Morton Grove and Evanston—have rolled back or lessened their gun control laws, in part to avoid lawsuits from gun advocacy organizations such as the NRA.

And Dick Heller, the federal guard whose lawsuit was debated in front of the nation's highest court in June, is filing another lawsuit against Washington, D.C., this time to repeal its ban on semiautomatic weapons, which, because they can “shoot more than 12 rounds without reloading,” the District considers technically a machine gun. 

On June 27, the day after the Supreme Court ruled on D.C. v. Heller, the NRA filed a lawsuit against the city of San Francisco for its ordinance banning handguns in public housing. The lobbyist group filed the lawsuit on behalf of an unnamed gay man who says he keeps a gun to protect himself against hate crimes, despite a rider in his public housing lease banning firearms.

Wilmette overturned its 19-year-old handgun ban the same day as the NRA sued San Francisco. Wilmette’s village attorney, Tim Frenzer said, “Based on the decision today, at a minimum it calls into serious question the continued viability of the ordinance.”

Evanston struck down its handgun ban on Tuesday, following Morton Grove’s decision last month to repeal its ban on firearm possession, while keeping in place a prohibition on grenades and automatic weapons.

“Specifically at issue is whether the Second Amendment can be enforced against state and local governments or is only applicable against the federal government and in federal jurisdictions like the District of Columbia,” the Christian Science Monitor explains.

This is Oak Park’s bone of contention as well. “Oak Park feels like it should have authority to make that decision itself” rather than federal judges, said Chicago lawyer Lance Malina, whom Oak Park hired to defend its gun control law against the NRA.

In addition to Oak Park, the suburb of Winnetka has a total ban on handguns, and eight other Chicagoland suburbs forbid the transfer or sale of handguns. The NRA also filed a lawsuit against the city of Chicago for its handgun ban on June 27.

As for Heller, on Monday the District of Columbia issued official registration for his revolver. After biking to District police headquarters to pick up his license, Heller posed for reporters.

San Francisco: See KPIX coverage
Chicago: See WBBM coverage
Evanston, Ill.: See WMAQ coverage
Wilmette, Ill.: See WBBM coverage

Headline Links: Chicagoland, San Francisco, decide on gun ownership rights

Background: District of Columbia v. Heller; Heller’s second lawsuit

Historical Context: The Second Amendment; U.S. v. Miller (1939)

Reference: Web Guide to the U.S. Supreme Court, Heller ruling, Bill of Rights

Related Topic: ‘Man at Center of Gun Lawsuit Registers Revolver’


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