McDonald v. City of Chicago – Supreme Court Case Analysis

Relevant Fact Surrounding the Case

            Gun ownership in the United States has always elicited a plethora of varying opinions with some debates even reaching the highest court on the land. McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010) is one such case, where Otis McDonald decided to sue the City of Chicago for making it virtually impossible for him to own a handgun for personal protection. Mr. Mc Donald, a former maintenance engineer, had been a resident of Morgan Park, Chicago since 1971. Nonetheless, the state of insecurity in his neighborhood was a source of great concern to him.  He had already been a victim of five break-ins, a situation that had now become the bane of his life.

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As an experienced hunter, Mr. McDonald was already in possession of shotguns and a rifle but viewed these as ineffective in close quarter intruder scenarios and the reason why he opted for a handgun. Purchasing and owning a gun in Chicago presented a set of complications. The city required all firearms to be registered, yet a ban that had been made effective since 1982 meant that no one could register a firearm (Barnett & Blackman, 2018, p. 56). Furthermore, the city effectively refused to provide the city’s inhabitants with new permits, which meant that Mr. McDonald could not protect himself using his firearm of choice. The bone of contention, therefore, was that he had been denied his constitutional right under the 2nd Amendment to keep and bear arms.

Decisions by the Lower Courts

Mr. McDonald’s first attempt to being accorded his constitutional right was to file a case that sought to see the ban on firearms within Chicago lifted. The case was first presented to Chicago District Court for determination on whether this restrictive ordinance could be lifted. However, Mr. McDonald’s attempts to change this particular piece of legislation failed when the court unanimously ruled that no such changes could be made possible. The reasons provided for this position were related to the high crime rate and gang related activity that had now become commonplace in Chicago. Allowing individuals to own firearms was viewed by the establishment as a detrimental step that would do more harm than good.

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It was widely assumed that allowing individuals to own firearms would be providing a free pass to criminals who would use them to further their reign of terror. Mr. Mc Donald decided to file a petition in the Court of Appeals to seek clarification on the matter together with making a repeated attempt to see the ruling overturned. In its judgment, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit agreed with the ruling that had been made earlier by Chicago District Court (In Carter, 2015). The possession of handguns had been banned for the public’s protection, with the judges citing Miller v. Texas and States v. Cruikshank as precedents that could be referred to in this situation.

Arguments from Both Sides

            The legal argument made by the City of Chicago was that it had a mandate to ensure that all its residents were safe and to carry out preventative measures. The ordinance in question dates back to 1982, when the city decided that it was best to place a ban on handguns since they were viewed as weapons of choice for a majority of criminals who were wreaking havoc then. Passing this ordinance was therefore viewed as a positive measure since numerous benefits would accrue in its presence. Conversely, Mr. McDonald and the Illinois State Rifle Association argued that this was a clear violation of an individual’s right to keep and bear arms. The Second Amendment provided these inalienable rights to all citizens of the United States and the primary reason why the interested parties viewed it as an affront to their freedoms (Johnson, Kopel, & Mocsary, 2018). The registration process also created a wide range of intricacies that had made it quite difficult for anyone to possess a handgun. Prohibition was a reality, with anyone attempting to acquire such a weapon being required to make a registration prior to any purchase in addition to annual fees. These requirements were viewed as restrictions that made it difficult for any American to enjoy their freedoms.

Reasoning Behind the Supreme Court’s Landmark Ruling

            In its landmark ruling, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the guarantee provided by the United States constitution of the right to keep and bear arms. Citizens were therefore at liberty to possess any firearm that they deemed suitable for their present circumstance with no jurisdiction having the power to take this right away. The 14th Amendment further bolstered this piece of legislation ensuring that this right supersedes any decrees that may be made by any state (Waldman, 2014, p. 67). The Due Process Clause was, therefore, a significant influence in the case since the Bill of Rights had been incorporated into the Constitution and was therefore protected by law.

Significance of the Court’s Decision

The decision reached by the Supreme Court in the McDonald v. City of Chicago case was viewed as a milestone by constitutionalists across the United States. It was a reiteration of the constitution’s 2nd Amendment that provided that it was legal for a citizen of the United States to keep and bear arms for personal protection. Individual liberty was therefore assured with states being limited in their attempt to curtail these rights.

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