-Senior Correspondent-

WASHINGTON ( – By a narrow, 5-4 margin, the U.S. Supreme Court returned a historic ruling June 26, deciding that the Second Amendment protects the constitutional right of an individual to own and keep a loaded handgun at home for purposes of self-defense. The decision overturns the 32-year-old ban on handguns here. It’s the court’s first significant ruling on the Second Amendment in nearly 70 years.

“This is not really an issue about the Constitution, the Second Amendment. It’s really about personal safety,” Prof. Charles Ogletree of the Harvard University School of Law told The Final Call. “It’s about the integrity of a process where we don’t have peace. We have hundreds of millions of guns in the United States today, almost as many guns circulating as there are people.

“And that just tells me, that’s not an answer to the problem. It hasn’t been an answer in any other country in the universe. And I just hope that we don’t regret the day, that we’re applauding the fact that we’re armed like the criminals, but it doesn’t solve a problem, it just creates a bigger problem, accidental shootings and other risks, particularly to our children and our families,” said Prof. Ogletree.


The decision had a national ripple effect. Pro-gun groups filed a federal lawsuit challenging a longstanding Chicago handgun ban only hours after the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the D.C. ban.

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley called the ruling “very frightening” and vowed to vigorously fight any attempt to invalidate that city’s gun ban.

“Does this lead to everyone having a gun in our society?” Mr. Daley asked June 27, according to published reports. “If (the justices) think that’s the answer, then they’re greatly mistaken. Then why don’t we do away with the court system and go back to the Old West, you have a gun and I have a gun and we’ll settle it in the streets?” said Mr. Daley.

The decision contained some bad news and some good news, D.C. officials said. “The bad news is no handgun in your home is going to remain in your home,” D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton told Pacifica Radio’s “Democracy Now!” “These handguns–first of all, handguns in the home, according to the data, are used primarily for suicides and for friend to friend domestic violence.”

Prof. Ogletree agreed. “I just think that we’re going to have the risk of more accidental shootings, people who are inexperienced harming their own family and loved ones. I think more guns in the city rather than fewer is not an answer.”

“Imagine people sitting in their houses getting a jump on the criminal,” Del. Norton asked rhetorically. “Most of the criminals in the District of Columbia do not enter houses when they think people are at home in the first place. In many ways, the decision was a huge stretch, a stretch around the Second Amendment itself because the Second Amendment starts saying exactly what it is about.

“It was about a country that was very afraid that creating a central government which would have an army, would leave the states disempowered to, in fact, handle themselves,” Ms. Norton continued. “The states were sure that these militias could always be armed.

“This court, which calls itself a conservative, strict constructionist court, simply reached around that, called it a preamble and said the use of the words ‘militia’ and ‘people’ was about individual rights. When you look at all of the amendments, six other amendments, the word ‘people’ is used, it is referring collectively, usually to the states,” Ms. Norton said.

D.C. officials are preparing to implement the required changes. “As mayor, even though I am disappointed in the court’s ruling and believe as I have for the past year that more handguns in the District will only lead to more handgun violence,” D.C. Mayor Adiran Fenty told reporters, “it is both important to respect the court’s authority and to act quickly and I have already directed the Metropolitan Police Department to implement an orderly process to allow citizens to register handguns for lawful possession in their homes.”

Prof. Ogletree said he was “disappointed,” but not “surprised” by the decision. “Here’s the challenge. People are concerned about the rise of crime, the unregistered guns, the use of illegal guns, but at the same time, I’m concerned when everybody now has the ability to be strapped,” he said.

“You think there are too many guns on the street now?” he said. “Just wait to see what people think, and what gunsellers think are the lack of limits and the creative opportunities for profits in this industry, and how it will have its own life. I’m not challenging the National Rifle Association, I’m not criticizing people who have been overwhelmed by illegal guns, I’m just saying: I hope this is a solution, but I deeply and sadly fear it’s not a solution, it’s an exacerbation, an increase of the problem of guns and gun violence.”

President Bush welcomed the ruling, as did Senator John McCain, and Senator Barak Obama said he understood the decision. The National Rifle Association applauded the ruling and said it marked “a great moment in American history.” The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence criticized the decision and argued it would “embolden criminal defendants, and ideological extremists, to file new legal attacks on existing gun laws.”