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January 8 , 2010


State of Illinois Amicus Brief Supports States' Rights to Regulate Firearms

Chicago — Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, supporting the constitutionality of handgun bans in Chicago and Oak Park, Ill., and urging the Court to confirm the ability of states to protect the health and safety of their residents by regulating firearms within their borders.

"At the heart of this case is a question of whether states can continue to make decisions on how to protect their residents and regulate firearms, based on the will of the people in each state," Madigan said. "We are urging the Court to rule in the interest of state and local authorities who are best suited to balance the need to protect residents from deadly gun violence against the legitimate interests of gun owners."

Madigan's brief, filed on behalf of the State of Illinois and joined by Maryland and New Jersey, in McDonald v. City of Chicago, urges the Court to rule that the Second Amendment does not apply to the states. In 2008, the Court held that the Second Amendment required the invalidation of a handgun ban in Washington, D.C., which is a federal jurisdiction. Extending the Second Amendment to apply to the states would overturn more than 100 years of legal precedent holding that the Amendment applies only to the federal government and more than two centuries of state gun regulations.

The Attorney General's brief argues that historical precedent establishes the states' right to regulate firearms. Interfering with this right, Madigan argues, would dramatically upend the longstanding view that state and local legislatures are best positioned to set limits on firearms by balancing the legitimate interests of gun owners against the need to preserve public safety within their communities.

Further, applying the Second Amendment to the states would create substantial uncertainty, requiring that federal courts determine the constitutionality of various longstanding state and local firearms legislation with little guidance from constitutional text or history. Madigan asserts that a decision to strike down the Chicago and Oak Park ordinances also could pose a threat to the states' authority to regulate in other areas, which would dramatically alter the balance between federal and state rights.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in this case on March 2, with a decision expected by the end of June.


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