Taking The Second Amendment To Court


For the first time in 70 years, the Supreme Court will examine the right to bear arms, centering on a Washington, DC ban on handguns. But DC is not alone. Dozens of other jurisdictions also have restrictions on handguns - including the city of Chicago.

CBS Weekend News anchor Thalia Assuras reports that the Windy City has been shocked by a recent jump in gun violence - a ten year old shot in the head; a pregnant mother gunned down on Halloween; a college student killed in front of his dorm - all committed with handguns in a city that bans them.

"Last year we had 34 high school students in Chicago killed because of gun violence," community activist Reverend Michael Pfleger tells Assuras, "that is a classroom. That is bigger than a classroom."

Reverend Pfleger has been working to end gun violence for 30 years, funding billboards and pressuring law makers to pass stricter rules. He admits the handgun ban in Chicago has not eliminated gun deaths, but without it he says, "I think you would see an already bad problem become worse."

Since 1982, Assuras reports, Chicago has labeled handguns as items which cannot be registered. At least twelve other nearby suburbs have similar policies. The only other major city to have such a wide-ranging ban is Washington, D.C., although municipalities like New York do limit ownership through a permit system.

If the Supreme Court rules against the D.C. ban, all of those other policies may have to be thrown out as well. The implications of that have many anti-gun advocates worried.

Josh Horowitz, the director of the Coalition Against Gun Violence, tells CBS, "It's really unpredictable right now. We're going to write the best briefs we can and hope for the best outcome we can, but its really an unknown at this point."

Critics of the bans argue that they infringe on individuals rights, are ineffective at preventing violence and are unnecessary because of existing laws aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.

They don't comply with handgun bans or with all the other gun laws, says NRA executive vice-president, Wayne LaPierre. "That is why they are called criminals. The thing that works is, confront them directly and take them off the street - prosecute them 100 percent of the time."

The National Rifle Association is concerned because a Supreme Court decision in Washington's favor will strike at the heart of its position but, says LaPierre, that is an outcome that his organization would challenge.

"Regardless what happens, the NRA, we're going to defend this freedom. The American public will not see the ruling political class take away their basic freedom."