High Court Strikes Down Chicago Gun Ban

The Supreme Court struck down Chicago's decades-long gun ban on Monday. In a 5-4 decision, the justices ruled the Constitution's "right to keep and bear arms" applies to every city and state. Host Michel Martin speaks with reporter Alex Keefe of NPR member station WBEZ in Chicago for the city's reactions to this decision.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

We want to tell you briefly now about a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court. Today it held that the Second Amendment restrains government's ability to limit the right to keep and bear arms. It was another five-to-four vote, but the court also signaled that some limitations on the right could survive legal challenges.

The place where this matters most right now is Chicago. That's where reporter and producer Alex Keefe has been covering the issue for Chicago Public Radio. Welcome, Alex.

ALEX KEEFE: Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: What does this mean right now for Chicago?

KEEFE: Well, technically, Chicago's hand gun ban, as I read this decision, is still in effect. The decision today reversed a lower court's ruling that had upheld hand gun bans in Chicago and in Oak Park, which is just west of the city. But this still has to come back to a federal court here in the city.

The court's decision today said that these municipal bans are at war with that central finding. So it does have to come back here in Chicago, but based on the arguments in the case in March and also based on the decision, it doesn't look too good.

Today's decision said that the Second Amendment applies to state and local governments. What that means is one's right to protect yourself with a gun in your home doesn't just apply to the federal government, which is what they said in a court decision in 2008, but now applies to all state and local government. So this is a very big case.

MARTIN: And not unexpected, as the court previously struck down Washington, D.C.'s hand gun ban, did Chicago react in any way to the decision in the D.C. case? Did they make any effort to modify their local ordinance to try to figure out how it could possibly survive a challenge?

KEEFE: Well, they were on the defense pretty quickly about this, on the same day that the court case of the District of Columbia versus Heller in 2008, on the same day that that came down, the Chicago's hand gun ban was challenged by a guy named Otis McDonald. He's the guy, the namesake of this case. He's in his late 70s. He lives in a high-crime neighborhood in the city, and he said that the ban violated his Second Amendment rights. So this was clearly a test case from the beginning.

Chicago has sort of been waiting, I think, to see how this all plays out. But, like I said, based on the oral arguments, they've kind of been expecting for a little while that this wasn't going to go very well. Chicago mayor Richard Daley, who was one of the most emotionally, vociferously anti-gun mayors in the United States, has held press conferences about this. And the city's really been prepping.

There were some (unintelligible) council committee meetings about what's next if this day finally came.

MARTIN: And, finally, Chicago as we know, has been experiencing, as a number of other cities have a surge in gun violence, particularly among certain populations. And I'm just wondering what the reaction is to this right now. I know that the as we are speaking, the decision is new, not unexpected, but, still. How is the city reacting to this information or city leaders?

KEEFE: Well, even before this came down, as I said, this has been a huge issue with city officials here. It's a big issue in the city of Chicago. A state lawmaker recently suggested bringing in the National Guard to deal with Chicago's gun violence problem now. That idea doesn't really have any political legs, but it illustrates how serious it is.

The city says that 98 percent of violent deaths in Chicago since 1998 have been from gun violence. So, given the political climate here, I think you're poised to see some hearty restrictions coming down from city hall.

MARTIN: Alex Keefe is a reporter and producer for Chicago Public Radio. He joined us from there. Alex, thanks so much for joining us.

KEEFE: Thanks, Michel.

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