WASHINGTON, DC – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today attended oral argument at the United States Supreme Court, which this morning heard the Second Amendment case, McDonald v. City of Chicago. The landmark case involves a constitutional challenge to the City of Chicago's prohibitions on handgun possession. Attorney General Abbott led a national effort to protect all Americans' right to keep and bear arms by forging a 38 state coalition that defended the Second Amendment and argued that Chicago's handgun ban is unconstitutional.
The case before the high court today stems from a legal challenge brought by Otis McDonald, a 76-year-old Army veteran who lives in a high-crime area of Chicago. McDonald was denied a handgun registration certificate by the city. As a result, he is prohibited him from legally possessing a handgun – which he wants to protect himself and his wife in their South Chicago home.
"Less than two years ago, we successfully fought to have the U.S. Supreme Court confirm that Americans have an individual, constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms," Attorney General Abbott said. "Now, the City of Chicago claims that the Supreme Court's 2008 decision does not apply to local governments – so cities and towns can simply ignore the Second Amendment and pass laws that disregard Americans' constitutionally protected rights. Texas has led the fight to defend the Second Amendment by forging a coalition of 38 state attorneys general who reject Chicago's attempt to circumvent the Constitution and who understand that all Americans – whether they live in Washington D.C. or not – have a fundamental right to keep and bear arms."
In 2008, Attorney General Abbott filed an amicus brief on behalf of 32 states that challenged the constitutionality of a Washington, D.C. ordinance that banned all handguns – and required that rifles and shotguns be disassembled or encumbered by trigger locks at all times. In a landmark decision styled District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court agreed with the attorneys general, declared the federal city's handgun ban unconstitutional, and held that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms.
Attorney General Abbott explains: "The Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms is a critical liberty interest, essential to preserving individual security and the right to self-defense."
Despite the Supreme Court's Heller decision, the City of Chicago contends that Americans' constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms does not apply to – or place limits on – states or cities. Under the City of Chicago's argument, law-abiding gun owners are not protected from municipal action that abrogates the constitution – because Chicago argues that the Supreme Court's Heller decision does not apply to state and local governments.
The states' brief refutes that argument by explaining that the Fourteenth Amendment applies the Second Amendment to cities, counties and other local governmental bodies across the country.
"Just as local governments cannot constitutionally act as ‘laboratories' for initiatives to abrogate their citizens' right to free speech or their freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, nor can they nullify the fundamental right to keep and bear arms secured by the Second Amendment," the attorneys general wrote in their Supreme Court brief.
If Chicago's unconstitutional gun ban were allowed to stand, the attorneys general explain, "millions of Americans will be deprived of their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms as a result of actions by local governments, such as the ordinances challenged in this case."
The states' amicus brief acknowledges that some firearms regulations are permissible, including in circumstances where they are necessary to prevent violent felons from owning guns.
Attorney General Abbott's brief is co-sponsored by Ohio, Arkansas and Georgia. Other states that joined the brief are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.