McDonald v. Chicago

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McDonald v. Chicago is a pending case before the Supreme Court, which rendered an order granting the petition for certiorari on Sept. 30, 2009. The briefing will be completed by the end of 2009 and oral argument in the case will be before April 2010, with a decision expected by the end of June 2010.

Circumstances of the Case

The city of Chicago requires weapons to be registered, and does not permit registration of handguns, effectively enacting a handgun ban in the city. Additionally, acquiring a weapon before registration renders it unregisterable.

Lawson and McDonald (petitioners) attempted to register handguns. The city of Chicago (respondent) denied each individual petitioner’s attempt to register a handgun pursuant to the handgun registration ban. Petitioners were also denied handgun registrations pursuant to the city’s preacquisition registration requirement. As the registered owners of long arms (rifles, etc.), petitioners are subjected to the city’s re-registration requirements. The registration for one of petitioner Lawson’s rifles lapsed, rendering it unregisterable. Petitioner David Lawson also acquired a rifle through the federal Civilian Marksmanship Program, which sent the rifle directly to his Chicago home, rendering it automatically unregisterable as it was acquired prior to its possible registration. Respondent denied Lawson’s administrative appeal of its refusal to register the CMP rifle. On June 26, 2008, Petitioners filed suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois challenging Chicago’s handgun ban, reregistration and pre-acquisition registration requirements, and non-registrability penalty, as violating their Second and Fourteenth Amendment rights.[1]


A law trial court entered judgment in favor of the City of Chicago on December 18, 2008.[2] The decision was appealed to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and combined with a similar case, NRA v. Chicago. Oral argument was May 26, 2009, and the court issued its opinion on June 2, 2009, rejecting the appeal and allowing the Chicago and Oak Park gun regulations to stand.[3]


The case, as presented before the Supreme Court, relies on two main arguments: that the Second Amendment is incorporated into state law by the Fourteenth Amendment, and that the second amendment invalidates one or all of the provisions of Chicago laws affecting the petitioners. Should the Court rule in the petitioners' favor, a number of weapon bans and registration laws across the country will be overturned.

There are six states that lack a right to keep and bear arms (RKBA) in their state constitutions, and these states have the most to gain from incorporation of the Second Amendment against the states. Maryland is one of those states.