S.Ct. rules 2nd Amendment applies to the states
McDonald v. City of Chicago, Illinois, No. 08-1521 (U.S. 06/28/2010)
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
June 28, 2010
OTIS MCDONALD, ET AL., PETITIONERS
CITY OF CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, ET AL.
SYLLABUS BY THE COURT
OCTOBER TERM, 2009
Argued March 2, 2010
Two years ago, in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U. S. ___, this Court held that the Second Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense and struck down a District of Columbia law that banned the possession of handguns in the home. Chicago (hereinafter City) and the village of Oak Park, a Chicago suburb, have laws effectively banning handgun possession by almost all private citizens. After Heller, petitioners filed this federal suit against the City, which was consolidated with two related actions, alleging that the City's handgun ban has left them vulnerable to criminals. They sought a declaration that the ban and several related City ordinances violate the Second and Fourteenth Amendments. Rejecting petitioners' argument that the ordinances are unconstitutional, the court noted that the Seventh Circuit previously had upheld the constitutionality of a handgun ban, that Heller had explicitly refrained from opining on whether the Second Amendment applied to the States, and that the court had a duty to follow established Circuit precedent. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, relying on three 19th-century cases-United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U. S. 542, Presser v. Illinois, 116 U. S. 252, and Miller v. Texas, 153 U. S. 535- which were decided in the wake of this Court's interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment's Privileges or Immunities Clause in the Slaughter-House Cases, 16 Wall. 36.
Held: The judgment is reversed, and the case is remanded.
567 F. 3d 856, reversed and remanded.
JUSTICE ALITO delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II--A, II--B, II--D, III--A, and III--B, concluding that the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the Second Amendment right, recognized in Heller, to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense. Pp. 5--9, 11--19, 19--33.
(a) Petitioners base their case on two submissions. Primarily, they argue that the right to keep and bear arms is protected by the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and that the Slaughter-House Cases' narrow interpretation of the Clause should now be rejected. As a secondary argument, they contend that the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause incorporates the Second Amendment right. Chicago and Oak Park (municipal respondents) maintain that a right set out in the Bill of Rights applies to the States only when it is an indispensable attribute of any " 'civilized' " legal system. If it is possible to imagine a civilized country that does not recognize the right, municipal respondents assert, that right is not protected by due process. And since there are civilized countries that ban or strictly regulate the private possession of handguns, they maintain that due process does not preclude such measures. Pp. 4--5.
(b) The Bill of Rights, including the Second Amendment, originally applied only to the Federal Government, not to the States, see, e.g., Barron ex rel. Tiernan v. Mayor of Baltimore, 7 Pet. 243, 247, but the constitutional Amendments adopted in the Civil War's aftermath fundamentally altered the federal system. Four years after the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment, this Court held in the SlaughterHouse Cases, that the Privileges or Immunities Clause protects only those rights "which owe their existence to the Federal government, its National character, its Constitution, or its laws," 16 Wall., at 79, and that the fundamental rights predating the creation of the Federal Government were not protected by the Clause, id., at 76. Under this narrow reading, the Court held that the Privileges or Immunities Clause protects only very limited rights. Id., at 79--80. Subsequently, the Court held that the Second Amendment applies only to the Federal Government in Cruikshank, 92 U. S. 542, Presser, 116 U. S. 252, and Miller, 153 U. S. 535, the decisions on which the Seventh Circuit relied in this case. Pp. 5--9.
(c) Whether the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms applies to the States is considered in light of the Court's precedents applying the Bill of Rights' protections to the States. Pp. 11--19.
(1) In the late 19th century, the Court began to hold that the Due Process Clause prohibits the States from infringing Bill of Rights protections. See, e.g., Hurtado v. California, 110 U. S. 516. Five features of the approach taken during the ensuing era are noted. First, the Court viewed the due process question as entirely separate from the question whether a right was a privilege or immunity of national citizenship. See Twining v. New Jersey, 211 U. S. 78, 99. Second, the Court explained that the only rights due process protected against state infringement were those "of such a nature that they are included in the conception of due process of law." Ibid. Third, some cases during this era "can be seen as having asked . . . if a civilized system could be imagined that would not accord the particular protection" asserted therein. Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U. S. 145, 149, n. 14. Fourth, the Court did not hesitate to hold that a Bill of Rights guarantee failed to meet the test for Due Process Clause protection, finding, e.g., that freedom of speech and press qualified, Gitlow v. New York, 268 U. S. 652, 666; Near v. Minnesota ex rel. Olson, 283 U. S. 697, but the grand jury indictment requirement did not, Hurtado, supra. Finally, even when such a right was held to fall within the conception of due process, the protection or remedies afforded against state infringement sometimes differed from those provided against abridgment by the Federal Government. Pp. 11--13.
(2) Justice Black championed the alternative theory that §1 of the Fourteenth Amendment totally incorporated all of the Bill of Rights' provisions, see, e.g., Adamson v. California, 332 U. S. 46, 71-- 72 (Black, J., dissenting), but the Court never has embraced that theory. Pp. 13--15.
(3) The Court eventually moved in the direction advocated by Justice Black, by adopting a theory of selective incorporation by which the Due Process Clause incorporates particular rights contained in the first eight Amendments. See, e.g., Gideon v. Wainright, 372 U. S. 335, 341. These decisions abandoned three of the characteristics of the earlier period. The Court clarified that the governing standard is whether a particular Bill of Rights protection is fundamental to our Nation's particular scheme of ordered liberty and system of justice. Duncan, supra, at 149, n. 14. The Court eventually held that almost all of the Bill of Rights' guarantees met the requirements for protection under the Due Process Clause. The Court also held that Bill of Rights protections must "all . . . be enforced against the States under the Fourteenth Amendment according to the same standards that protect those personal rights against federal encroachment." Malloy v. Hogan, 378 U. S. 1, 10. Under this approach, the Court overruled earlier decisions holding that particular Bill of Rights guarantees or remedies did not apply to the States. See, e.g., Gideon, supra, which overruled Betts v. Brady, 316 U. S. 455. Pp. 15--19.
(d) The Fourteenth Amendment makes the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms fully applicable to the States. Pp. 19--33.
(1) The Court must decide whether that right is fundamental to the Nation's scheme of ordered liberty, Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U. S. 145, 149, or, as the Court has said in a related context, whether it is "deeply rooted in this Nation's history and tradition," Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U. S. 702, 721. Heller points unmistakably to the answer. 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. 554 U. S., at ___, ___. Explaining that "the need for defense of self, family, and property is most acute" in the home, ibid., 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," id., at ___, ___--___. It thus concluded that citizens must be permitted "to use [handguns] for the core lawful purpose of self-defense." Id., at ___. Heller also clarifies that this right is "deeply rooted in this Nation's history and traditions," Glucksberg, supra, at 721. Heller explored the right's origins in English law and noted the esteem with which the right was regarded during the colonial era and at the time of the ratification of the Bill of Rights. This is powerful evidence that the right was regarded as fundamental in the sense relevant here. That understanding persisted in the years immediately following the Bill of Rights' ratification and is confirmed by the state constitutions of that era, which protected the right to keep and bear arms. Pp. 19--22.
(2) 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. Pp. 22--33.
(i) By the 1850's, the fear that the National Government would disarm the universal militia had largely faded, but the right to keep and bear arms was highly valued for self-defense. Abolitionist authors wrote in support of the right, and attempts to disarm "FreeSoilers" in "Bloody Kansas," met with outrage that the constitutional right to keep and bear arms had been taken from the people. After the Civil War, the Southern States engaged in systematic efforts to disarm and injure African Americans, see Heller, supra, at ___. 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. See General Building Contractors Assn., Inc. v. Pennsylvania, 458 U. S. 375, 389. 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. Pp. 22--31.
(ii) Despite all this evidence, municipal respondents argue that Members of Congress overwhelmingly viewed §1 of the Fourteenth Amendment as purely an antidiscrimination rule. But while §1 does contain an antidiscrimination rule, i.e., the Equal Protection Clause, it can hardly be said that the section does no more than prohibit discrimination. If what municipal respondents mean is that the Second Amendment should be singled out for special-and specially unfavorable-treatment, the Court rejects the suggestion. The right to keep and bear arms must be regarded as a substantive guarantee, not a prohibition that could be ignored so long as the States legislated in an evenhanded manner. Pp. 30--33.
JUSTICE ALITO, joined by THE CHIEF JUSTICE, JUSTICE SCALIA, and JUSTICE KENNEDY, concluded, in Parts II--C, IV, and V, that the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause incorporates the Second Amendment right recognized in Heller. Pp. 10--11, 33--44.
(a) Petitioners argue that that the Second Amendment right is one of the "privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States." There is no need to reconsider the Court's interpretation of the Privileges or Immunities Clause in the Slaughter-House Cases because, for many decades, the Court has analyzed the question whether particular rights are protected against state infringement under the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause. Pp. 10--11.
(b) Municipal respondents' remaining arguments are rejected because they are at war with Heller's central holding. In effect, they ask the Court to hold the right to keep and bear arms as subject to a different body of rules for incorporation than the other Bill of Rights guarantees. Pp. 33--40.
(c) The dissents' objections are addressed and rejected. Pp. 41--44. JUSTICE THOMAS agreed that the Fourteenth Amendment makes the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms that was recognized in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U. S. ___, fully applicable to the States. However, he asserted, there is a path to this conclusion that is more straightforward and more faithful to the Second Amendment's text and history. The Court is correct in describing the Second Amendment right as "fundamental" to the American scheme of ordered liberty, Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U. S. 145, 149, and "deeply rooted in this Nation's history and traditions," Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U. S. 702, 721. But the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause, which speaks only to "process," cannot impose the type of substantive restraint on state legislation that the Court asserts. Rather, the right to keep and bear arms is enforceable against the States because it is a privilege of American citizenship recognized by §1 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which provides, inter alia: "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States." In interpreting this language, it is important to recall that constitutional provisions are " 'written to be understood by the voters.' " Heller, 554 U. S., at ___. The objective of this inquiry is to discern what "ordinary citizens" at the time of the Fourteenth Amendment's ratification would have understood that Amendment's Privileges or Immunities Clause to mean. Ibid. A survey of contemporary legal authorities plainly shows that, at that time, the ratifying public understood the Clause to protect constitutionally enumerated rights, including the right to keep and bear arms. Pp. 1--34.
ALITO, J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II--A, II--B, II--D, III--A, and III--B, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and SCALIA, KENNEDY, and THOMAS, JJ., joined, and an opinion with respect to Parts II--C, IV, and V, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and SCALIA and KENNEDY, JJ., join. SCALIA, J., filed a concurring opinion. THOMAS, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion. BREYER, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which GINSBURG and SOTOMAYOR, JJ., joined.
ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT Court Below: 567 F.3d 856
561 U. S. ____ (2010)
Opinion of the Court
JUSTICE ALITO announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II--A, II--B, II--D, III--A, and III--B, in which THE CHIEF JUSTICE, JUSTICE SCALIA, JUSTICE KENNEDY, and JUSTICE THOMAS join, and an opinion with respect to Parts II--C, IV, and V, in which THE CHIEF JUSTICE, JUSTICE SCALIA, and JUSTICE KENNEDY join.
Two years ago, in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U. S. ___ (2008), we held that the Second Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense, and we struck down a District of Columbia law that banned the possession of handguns in the home. The city of Chicago (City) and the village of Oak Park, a Chicago suburb, have laws that are similar to the District of Columbia's, but Chicago and Oak Park argue that their laws are constitutional because the Second Amendment has no application to the States. We have previously held that most of the provisions of the Bill of Rights apply with full force to both the Federal Government and the States. Applying the standard that is well established in our case law, we hold that the Second Amendment right is fully applicable to the States.
Otis McDonald, Adam Orlov, Colleen Lawson, and David Lawson (Chicago petitioners) are Chicago residents who would like to keep handguns in their homes for self-defense but are prohibited from doing so by Chicago's firearms laws. A City ordinance provides that "[n]o person shall . . . possess . . . any firearm unless such person is the holder of a valid registration certificate for such firearm." Chicago, Ill., Municipal Code §8--20--040(a) (2009). The Code then prohibits registration of most handguns, thus effectively banning handgun possession by almost all private citizens who reside in the City. §8--20--050(c). Like Chicago, Oak Park makes it "unlawful for any person to possess . . . any firearm," a term that includes "pistols, revolvers, guns and small arms . . . commonly known as handguns." Oak Park, Ill., Municipal Code §§27--2--1 (2007), 27--1--1 (2009).
Chicago enacted its handgun ban to protect its residents "from the loss of property and injury or death from firearms." See Chicago, Ill., Journal of Proceedings of the City Council, p. 10049 (Mar. 19, 1982). The Chicago petitioners and their amici, however, argue that the handgun ban has left them vulnerable to criminals. Chicago Police Department statistics, we are told, reveal that the City's handgun murder rate has actually increased since the ban was enacted*fn1 and that Chicago residents now face one of the highest murder rates in the country and rates of other violent crimes that exceed the average in comparable cities.*fn2
Several of the Chicago petitioners have been the targets of threats and violence. For instance, Otis McDonald, who is in his late seventies, lives in a high-crime neighborhood. He is a community activist involved with alternative policing strategies, and his efforts to improve his neighborhood have subjected him to violent threats from drug dealers. App. 16--17; Brief for State Firearm Associations as Amici Curiae 20--21; Brief for State of Texas et al. as Amici Curiae 7--8. Colleen Lawson is a Chicago resident whose home has been targeted by burglars. "In Mrs. Lawson's judgment, possessing a handgun in Chicago would decrease her chances of suffering serious injury or death should she ever be threatened again in her home."*fn3
McDonald, Lawson, and the other Chicago petitioners own handguns that they store outside of the city limits, but they would like to keep their handguns in their homes for protection. See App. 16--19, 43--44 (McDonald), 20--24 (C. Lawson), 19, 36 (Orlov), 20--21, 40 (D. Lawson).
After our decision in Heller, the Chicago petitioners and two groups*fn4 filed suit against the City in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. They sought a declaration that the handgun ban and several related Chicago ordinances violate the Second and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Another action challenging the Oak Park law was filed in the same District Court by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and two Oak Park residents. In addition, the NRA and others filed a third action challenging the Chicago ordinances. All three cases were assigned to the same District Judge.
The District Court rejected plaintiffs' argument that the Chicago and Oak Park laws are unconstitutional. See App. 83--84; NRA, Inc. v. Oak Park, 617 F. Supp. 2d 752, 754 (ND Ill. 2008). The court noted that the Seventh Circuit had "squarely upheld the constitutionality of a ban on handguns a quarter century ago," id., at 753 (citing Quilici v. Morton Grove, 695 F. 2d 261 (CA7 1982)), and that Heller had explicitly refrained from "opin[ing] on the subject of incorporation vel non of the Second Amendment," NRA, 617 F. S
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