Lower Courts Clash with Supreme Court over Gun Rights Rulings

Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Black Panthers on steps of the Washington state capitol, February 28, 1969. (Photo: Washington State Archives}
District of Columbia v. Heller was supposed to bring legal salvation to gun-rights advocates, after the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision in June 2008, invalidated the District of Columbia’s strict gun-control law. Another 5-4 pro-gun ruling in June 2010, McDonald v. Chicago, held that Heller applied not just to federal laws, but to state and local laws as well.
These successes prompted the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other like-minded allies to file hundreds of lawsuits across the country in an attempt to leverage the high court rulings and throw out all kinds of laws restricting gun use or ownership.
For the past three years, however, the lower courts have not been friendly to the NRA and company. District judges have been unwilling to expand upon the Heller precedent, which established the right to keep a handgun in a home for self-defense.
So now both pro- and anti-gun activists are waiting for the Supreme Court to hear two cases that may clear up, or muddy, the gun-control debate. In one legal battle, Charles F. Williams Jr. is challenging Maryland’s law requiring gun owners to have a permit in order to carry a weapon in public. The other case, Sean Masciandaro v. United States of America, could impact a federal law banning loaded firearms in national parks. Masciandaro, a reptile wrangler, was caught sleeping in his car on national park land (Daingerfield Island in Virginia) with a loaded handgun in his trunk.
-Noel Brinkerhoff


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