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McDonald v. City of Chicago

Citation. 561 U.S. 742, 130 S.Ct. 3020, 177 L.Ed.2d 894 (2010).
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Brief Fact Summary.

Several parties filed suit against their cities challenging their gun bans after District of Columbia v. Heller. The plaintiffs alleged that the Second Amendment was also applicable to the states.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

The Second Amendment applies to state and local governments as well as to the federal government.


Several suits were filed against Chicago and Oak Park in Illinois challenging their gun bans after the Supreme Court issued its opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller. In that case, the Supreme Court held that a District of Columbia handgun ban violated the Second Amendment. There, the Court reasoned that the law in question was enacted under the authority of the federal government and, thus, the Second Amendment was applicable. Here, plaintiffs argued that the Second Amendment should also apply to the states.


Does the Second Amendment apply to the states because it is incorporated by the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause and thereby made applicable to the states?Yes, the Second Amendment is incorporated through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and applies to the states.


Yes, the Second Amendment is incorporated through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and applies to the states.


Justice Breyer

Determining the constitutionality of a particular state gun law requires finding answers to complex empirically based questions of a kind that legislatures are better able than courts to make. In absence of any other support for its conclusion, ambiguous history cannot show that the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates a private right of self-defense against the states.

Justice Stevens

The right to possess a firearm of one’s choosing is different in kind from the liberty interests we have recognized under the Due Process Clause. Americans may feel deeply passionate about firearms but it does not appear to be the case that the ability to own a handgun is critical to leading a life of autonomy, dignity, or political equality.


Justice Thomas

The right to keep and bear arms is a privilege of American citizenship that applies to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment’s Privileges or Immunities Clause.


In Heller, the Court held that the right to self-defense is “fundamental to the Nation’s scheme of ordered liberty” and “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.” Congress has held this right to be a fundamental right throughout our nation’s history. The analysis does not turn on whether any civilized society can exist without recognizing this as a fundamental right, but rather whether ours can. If the protections found in the Bill of Rights were required to be accepted by all civilized societies before they were considered incorporated by the Due Process Clause, many of the criminal protections would not apply to the states. The Second Amendment right recognized in Heller is a fundamental right, and is incorporated into the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

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