Following up on my earlier post about the Supreme Court ruling against Chicago’s handgun ban in McDonald v. Chicago, the case has been sent back to the lower court to figure out the details, so it’s not quite time to arm ourselves yet.
An attorney involved in the case advised against Chicagoans running out and purchasing handguns until a lower court rules on the matter later this summer.
“Obviously I’m elated by the court’s decision, said attorney David Sigale. “(But) I think it would be prudent to wait.”
Sigale said he expects the U.S. District Court to take up the case again in the coming weeks and issue the city directives on the handgun ban and a number of specific ordinances regarding re-registration and pre-registration.
Naturally, Mayor Daley is planning to fight this:
Daley has scheduled a news conference for 1 p.m. today to discuss the ruling. The City Council could consider new gun control measures as soon as Wednesday, Daley said last week.
City Hall has been drawing up plans after the justices heard arguments in the case in early March and appeared to indicate they would rule against the city.
In an interview with the Tribune, the mayor said his primary goal would be to protect police officers, paramedics and emergency workers from being shot when responding to an incident at a home.
It’s nonsense to think that the loss of Chicago’s handgun is going to endanger cops or any other first responders. Illinois will almost certainly keep its background check requirement, which means that only people with no significant criminal record will be able to possess a handgun legally. The aren’t likely to suddenly commence a life of crime.
Let me put it another way: Last weekend in Chicago, 54 people were wounded by gunfire, 10 of them fatally. Since ordinary Chicago residents can’t own handguns legally, most of those shots must have been fired by people who had guns in violation of Chicago’s tough handgun ban. It’s hard to imagine that more guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens would have made things any worse.
“If the ban is overturned, we will see a lot of common-sense approaches in the city aimed at protecting first responders,” Daley said. “We have to have some type of registry. If a first responder goes to an apartment, they need to know if that individual has a gun.”
It sounds like the usual obstructive behavior. If the mayor can’t make it illegal to own guns, he’ll figure out a way to harass people who own guns legally. There will probably be lots of paperwork. As Scott Greenfield points out, this could drag on for decades, because the Supreme Court’s ruling was remarkably lazy:
McDonald did one thing only, holding that the right enunciated in Heller applies to the states. As with the mystery paragraph of Heller, the Court reiterated that the decision doesn’t preclude regulation and limitation. This leaves open the next hundred years of piecemeal litigation over each and every inch of imaginative legislation to see where the line is drawn. We’re so far away right now that we can’t even see the line, no less know what the line precludes.
Heck, as Eugene Volokh points out, the Court hasn’t even cleared up whether the right is truly fundamental, and whether limitations are subject to strict or intermediate scrutiny. While these legal issues aren’t particularly interesting to non-lawyers, they play a huge role in framing laws to restrict the applicability of Heller and its progeny. More decisions needed to flesh out the right mean more years before anybody really understands what can and can’t be done.
And if anybody doubts that McDonald is merely another baby step in a very, very long journey, consider that it took 214 pages to conclude that the right is incorporated. Just wait until the Supremes have to struggle with some of the tougher questions, like whether children under the age of 6 months living in a home for which an application to possess a firearm has been made will have to pass a physical examination to demonstrate competency in firearms handling. Yes, the possibilities are endless.
Meanwhile, getting back to Mayor Daley’s rantings, this sentence gives pause for thought:
He said he also wants to save taxpayers from the financial cost of lawsuits if police shoot someone in the house because the officer felt threatened.
This is absurd. The courts know how to handle lawsuits over police shootings, and police officers have always been allowed to shoot when they reasonably feel their life is in danger. If the handgun ban is struck down, threatening a police officer with a gun will still be a crime, even if the gun is legally owned, and the police rules for use of force won’t change, just has they haven’t changed anywhere else in the country where people can own handguns.
What Mayor Daley is really worried about is that the City of Chicago has been paying out millions of dollars in damages for the illegal or dangerous conduct of its police officers, and Mayor Daley sees the impending fall of the handgun ban as an excuse to drum up some sort tort protection. It’s incredibly cynical.