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Under the gun

The U.S. Supreme Court followed up on its 2008 Heller decision — which threw out the blanket ban on private handgun ownership in Washington, D.C. — by ruling 5-4 on Monday that Chicago, as well, violated the Constitution by imposing an effective ban on private handgun ownership.

The court’s four left-wing justices found no constitutional grounds to toss out Chicago’s handgun ban, despite the Second Amendment’s edict that, “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

Notable was the vote by newest Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who swore in Senate hearings last year that she understood gun ownership was an individual right. Justice Sotomayor voted Monday that Chicago’s complete ban on private handgun ownership was just fine with her.

Despite the victory for gun rights advocates, the majority did indicate a willingness to accept some gun regulations. The problem in Chicago was the broad reach of the city’s universal handgun ban — but “less broad” restrictions might pass muster, the justices held.

No doubt this will lead to years of additional litigation, as those who wish to prevent Americans from effectively exercising this basic constitutional right work to see how much they can get away with.

Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago, for example, promptly promised to adopt all the regulations that Washington, D.C., adopted in 2008 after its gun ban was struck down, as well as some additional ones. The Washington Post recently sent a reporter with a spotless record to obtain a D.C. handgun permit, determining that the quest involved paying fees amounting to more than $550, making four distinct trips to the police station, and taking two different tests.

Chicago officials announced they plan to do the same, while adding a requirement that gun owners buy insurance to cover any incidents that might arise from use of the weapon.

Imagine any mayor in the United States saying he intends to impose $550 in fees and other procedural roadblocks before residents can purchase a “freedom of religion permit,” so they might attend the church of their choice.

The court on Monday certainly moved in the right direction. But as GOP Rep. Tom Price of Georgia warned, “The small margin by which this decision was reached also highlights the need for Supreme Court justices who fully appreciate the basic rights ensured by the Constitution. Solicitor General Elena Kagan’s previous work to push the Clinton administration’s anti-Second Amendment agenda does not inspire confidence that she would use a seat on our highest court to protect the rights of the American people.”

Oh, Ms. Kagan — now undergoing Senate hearings on her Supreme Court nomination — will doubtless now assure us she stands by the entire Bill of Rights … just as Sonia Sotomayor did.

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