McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010)

Key Facts– Chicago and Oak Park made laws prohibiting firearms, just like in Washington, D.C. prior to D.C. v. Heller.

Issue– Is the Second Amendment applicable to the states?

Holding– Yes

Result– Law stricken

Reasoning– The Due Process clause incorporates the Second Amendment and applies it to the states, because self-defense is a basic right, and the right to bear arms is therefore critical.

Printz v. United States

Key Facts—The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act commanded state and local law enforcement officers to conduct background checks on prospective handgun purchasers and perform some related tasks.

Issue—Can Congress compel state and local law enforcement to perform specific tasks pursuant to federal regulations?


Result—Law partially stricken.

Reasoning—Historically, when Congress needed state assistance in enforcing a federal law, it never attempted to mandate compliance; instead, it requested support. If the states did not comply, Congress worked around the resultant logistical issues. Using the states as instruments of Congress is forbidden, because they have their own sovereignty. The Brady Act would transfer the Executive responsibility for execution of the laws to local authorities, and it is therefore unacceptable.

DC v Heller

Key Facts- DC passed a statute against having an unregistered firearm in one’s possession, and they also prohibited registration of handguns. Other types of guns (like rifles) were mandated to be kept either dissembled or bound by trigger locks. Heller sued DC to enjoin the city from enforcing the ban, after he was unable to register a handgun he wanted to keep at home.

Procedural History- Heller sued in Federal District Court, and the judges dismissed. Afterward, Heller appealed to the Court of Appeals, and they invalidated the statutes. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Issue- Is rendering possession of all handguns an unconstitutional action by the DC government?

(Implicit Issue)- How should the Supreme Court interpret the Constitution so as to determine the constitutionality of modern day statutes?

Results- DC’s ban on handguns in the home, along with its prohibition against operable firearms in the home, are overturned.

Holding- The Second Amendment provides for an individual right to bear arms. This right cannot, therefore, be denied by any branch of government, though it can be limited; restrictions like DC’s are unconstitutional.

Reasoning- The holding was based on research into reasonable sources on the time period and the use of language in the Constitution. The court argues that constitutional protections cannot be subject to future assessments by government officials to weigh what is necessary or beneficial, because otherwise, they effectively offer no protection at all.

HellerHeller after the ruling