The Supreme Court appeared willing Tuesday to say that the Constitution's right to possess guns limits state and local regulation of firearms. But the justices also suggested that some gun control measures might not be affected.
The court heard arguments in a case that challenges handgun bans in the Chicago area by asking the high court to extend to state and local jurisdictions the sweep of its 2008 decision striking down a gun ban in the federal enclave of Washington, D.C.
The biggest questions before the court seemed to be how, rather than whether, to issue such a ruling and whether some regulation of firearms could survive. On the latter point, Justice Antonin Scalia said the majority opinion he wrote in the 2008 case "said as much."
The extent of gun rights are "still going to be subject to the political process," said Chief Justice John Roberts, who was in the majority in 2008.
At the very least, Tuesday's argument suggested that courts could be very busy in the years ahead determining precisely which gun laws are allowed under the Second Amendment's "right to keep and bear arms," and which must be stricken.
James Feldman, a Washington-based lawyer representing Chicago, urged the court to reject the challenges to the gun laws in Chicago and its suburb of Oak Park, Ill. Handguns have been banned in those two places for nearly 30 years.
The court has held that most of the rest of the Bill of Rights applies to state and local laws. But Feldman said the Second Amendment should be treated differently because guns are different. "Firearms are designed to injure and kill," he said.