McDonald v. City of Chi.

Citation130 S.Ct. 3020,561 U.S. 742,177 L.Ed.2d 894
Decision Date28 June 2010
Docket NumberNo. 08–1521.,08–1521.
PartiesOtis McDONALD, et al., Petitioners, v. CITY OF CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, et al.
CourtUnited States Supreme Court
, et al., Petitioners,v.CITY OF CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, et al.

Alan Gura

for the petitioners.

Paul D. Clement

for the respondents Nat. Rifle Association, Inc., et al. in support of the petitioners.

James A. Feldman for the respondents City of Chicago, Ill.

Stephen P. Halbrook

, Fairfax, VA, Counsel for the National Rifle Association of America, Inc., Robert Klein Engler, Dr. Gene Reisinger, Dr. Kathryn Tyler, Van F. Welton, and Brett Benson. Stephen D. Poss, Counsel of Record, Kevin P. Martin, Joshua S. Lipshutz, Goodwin Procter LLP, Boston, MA, Paul D. Clement, King & Spalding, Washington, DC, Counsel for the National Rifle Association of America, Inc.

David G. Sigale

, Law Firm of David G. Sigale, P.C., Lisle, Illinois, Alan Gura, Counsel of Record, Alexandria, Virginia for the Seventh Circuit.

Charles M. Dyke

, Counsel of Record, Yi-Yi Chang, Nixon Peabody LLP, San Francisco, CA, for the Board of Education of the City of Chicago, Institute of Medicine of Chicago, Wayman African Methodist Episcopal Church of Chicago, Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, Legal Community Against Violence, Violence Policy Center, States United to Prevent Gun Violence, Freedom States Alliance, Connecticut Against Gun Violence, Maine Citizens Against Gun Violence, Citizens for a Safer Minnesota, Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort Educational Fund, and in Support of Respondents City of Chicago and Village of Oak Park.

James A. Feldman

, Special Assistant, Corporation Counsel, Washington, D.C., Mara S. Georges, Corporation Counsel of the City of Chicago, Benna Ruth Solomon, Counsel of Record, Deputy Corporation Counsel, Myriam Zreczny Kasper, Chief Assistant Corporation Counsel, Suzanne M. Loose, Assistant Corporation Counsel, Andrew W. Worseck, Assistant Corporation Counsel, Chicago, Illinois, Counsel for the City of Chicago; Raymond L. Heise, Village Attorney of Oak Park, Oak Park, Illinois, Counsel for the Village of Oak Park, Hans Germann, Ranjit Hakim, Alexandra Shea, Mayer Brown LLP, Chicago, Illinois, for Respondents City of Chicago and Village of Oak Park.


Justice ALITO

announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II–A, II–B, II–D, III–A, and III–B, in which THE CHIEF JUSTICE, Justice


, Justice KENNEDY, and Justice THOMAS join, and an opinion with respect to Parts II–C, IV, and V, in which THE CHIEF JUSTICE, Justice SCALIA, and Justice KENNEDY join.

Two years ago, in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 128 S.Ct. 2783, 171 L.Ed.2d 637 (2008)

, we held that the Second Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense, and we struck down a District of Columbia law that banned the possession of handguns in the home. The city of Chicago (City) and the village of Oak Park, a Chicago suburb, have laws that are similar to the District of Columbia's, but Chicago and Oak Park argue that their laws are constitutional because the Second Amendment has no application to the States. We have previously held that most of the provisions of the Bill of Rights apply with full force to both the Federal Government and the States. Applying the standard that is well established in our case law, we hold that the Second Amendment right is fully applicable to the States.


Otis McDonald, Adam Orlov, Colleen Lawson, and David Lawson (Chicago petitioners) are Chicago residents who would like to keep handguns in their homes for self-defense but are prohibited from doing so by Chicago's firearms laws. A City ordinance provides that [n]o person shall ... possess ... any firearm unless such person is the holder of a valid registration certificate for such firearm.” Chicago, Ill., Municipal Code § 8–20–040(a) (2009). The Code then prohibits registration of most handguns, thus effectively banning handgun possession by almost all private citizens who reside in the City. § 8–20–050(c). Like Chicago, Oak Park makes it “unlawful for any person to possess ... any firearm,” a term that includes “pistols, revolvers, guns and small arms ... commonly known as handguns.” Oak Park, Ill., Village Code §§ 27–2–1 (2007), 27–1–1 (2009).

Chicago enacted its handgun ban to protect its residents “from the loss of property and injury or death from firearms.”

See Chicago, Ill., Journal of Proceedings of the City Council, p. 10049 (Mar. 19, 1982). The Chicago petitioners and their amici, however, argue that the handgun ban has left them vulnerable to criminals. Chicago Police Department statistics, we are told, reveal that the City's handgun murder rate has actually increased since the ban was enacted1 and that Chicago residents now face one of the highest murder rates in the country and rates of other violent crimes that exceed the average in comparable cities.2

Several of the Chicago petitioners have been the targets of threats and violence. For instance, Otis McDonald, who is in his late seventies, lives in a high-crime neighborhood. He is a community activist involved with alternative policing strategies, and his efforts to improve his neighborhood have subjected him to violent threats from drug dealers. App. 16–17; Brief for State Firearm Associations as Amici Curiae 20–21; Brief for State of Texas et al. as Amici Curiae 7–8. Colleen Lawson is a Chicago resident whose home has been targeted by burglars. “In Mrs. Lawson's judgment, possessing a handgun in Chicago would decrease her chances of suffering serious injury or death should she ever be threatened again in her home.”3 McDonald, Lawson, and the other Chicago petitioners own handguns that they store outside of the city limits, but they would like to keep their handguns in their homes for protection. See App. 16–19, 43–44 (McDonald), 20–24 (C. Lawson), 19, 36 (Orlov), 20–21, 40 (D.Lawson).

After our decision in Heller, the Chicago petitioners and two groups4 filed suit against the City in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. They sought a declaration that the handgun ban and several related Chicago ordinances violate the Second and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Another action challenging the Oak Park law was filed in the same District Court by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and two Oak Park residents. In addition, the NRA and others filed a third action challenging the Chicago ordinances. All three cases were assigned to the same District Judge.

The District Court rejected plaintiffs' argument that the Chicago and Oak Park laws are unconstitutional. See App. 83–84; NRA, Inc. v. Oak Park, 617 F.Supp.2d 752, 754 (N.D.Ill.2008)

. The court noted that the Seventh Circuit had “squarely upheld the constitutionality of a ban on handguns a quarter century ago,” id., at 753 (citing Quilici v. Morton Grove, 695 F.2d 261 (C.A.7 1982)), and that Heller had explicitly refrained from “opin[ing] on the subject of incorporation vel non of the Second Amendment,” NRA, 617 F.Supp.2d, at 754. The court observed that a district judge has a “duty to follow established precedent in the Court of Appeals to which he or she is beholden, even though the logic of more recent caselaw may point in a different direction.” Id., at 753.

The Seventh Circuit affirmed, relying on three 19th-century casesUnited States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542, 23 L.Ed. 588 (1876)

, Presser v. Illinois, 116 U.S. 252, 6 S.Ct. 580, 29 L.Ed. 615 (1886), and Miller v. Texas, 153 U.S. 535, 14 S.Ct. 874, 38 L.Ed. 812 (1894)—that were decided in the wake of this Court's interpretation of the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in the Slaughter–House Cases, 16 Wall. 36, 21 L.Ed. 394 (1873). The Seventh Circuit described the rationale of those cases as “defunct” and recognized that they did not consider the question whether the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause incorporates the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. NRA, Inc. v. Chicago, 567 F.3d 856, 857, 858 (2009)

. Nevertheless, the Seventh Circuit observed that it was obligated to follow Supreme Court precedents that have “direct application,” and it declined to predict how the Second Amendment would fare under this Court's modern “selective incorporation” approach. Id., at 857–858 (internal quotation marks omitted).

We granted certiorari. 557 U.S. 965, 130 S.Ct. 48, 174 L.Ed.2d 632 (2009)



Petitioners argue that the Chicago and Oak Park laws violate the right to keep and bear arms for two reasons. Petitioners' primary submission is that this right is among the “privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States” and that the narrow interpretation of the Privileges or Immunities Clause adopted in the Slaughter–House Cases, supra, should now be rejected. As a secondary argument, petitioners contend that the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause “incorporates” the Second Amendment right.

Chicago and Oak Park (municipal respondents) maintain that a right set out in the Bill of Rights applies to the States only if that right is an indispensable attribute of any ‘civilized’ legal system. Brief for Municipal Respondents 9. If it is possible to imagine a civilized country that does not recognize the right, the municipal respondents tell us, then that right is not protected by due process. Ibid. And since there are civilized countries that ban or strictly regulate the private possession of handguns, the municipal respondents maintain that due process does not preclude such measures. Id., at 21–23. In light of the parties' far-reaching arguments, we begin by recounting this Court's analysis over the years of the relationship between the provisions of the Bill of Rights and the States.


The Bill of Rights, including the Second Amendment, originally applied only to the Federal Government. In Barron ex rel. Tiernan v. Mayor...

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