Washington's blanket ban on handguns will fall and tight gun laws in places like Chicago and San Francisco are sure to come under attack. But most of the nation's firearms regulations will probably stay on the books, and some politicians said Thursday's Supreme Court decision won't hinder their efforts to prevent bloodshed.
The high court struck down the District of Columbia's ban on handguns, ruling that Americans can keep guns at home for self-defense. It was the justices' first-ever pronouncement on the meaning of gun rights under the Second Amendment.
But the court said the right to bear arms is not absolute and suggested that the ruling should not affect federal restrictions on the sale of guns or who may own them and where they may be carried.
“In limiting its opinion to the matter of self-defense, and in saying the right is not absolute, the United States Supreme Court decision today is an explicit statement of support for cities all across America who are creating reasonable measures to limit the ability of those who will do harm, who will maim, who will buy, carry weapons illegally,” Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said.
In San Francisco, which has some of the toughest handgun regulations in the U.S., Mayor Gavin Newsom said the ruling “just flies in the face of reality. You just wish the Supreme Court could spend a week in public housing and then come out with this decision. It's very easy and comfortable to stand there with security guards and metal detectors and make these decisions.”
San Francisco bars people from carrying handguns on county property, including in parks, schools and community centers. Newsom said city attorneys have been researching new regulations that might place tighter controls on ammunition and further restrict where guns could be carried.
District of Columbia Mayor Adrian Fenty responded with a plan to require residents of the nation's capital to register their handguns. “More handguns in the District of Columbia will only lead to more handgun violence,” Fenty said.
After Thursday's decision, the National Rifle Association announced plans to file lawsuits against Chicago and San Francisco over their gun laws.
Chicago's ban on private handgun ownership most closely mirrors the Washington law that was struck down. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley said the court's ruling was “a very frightening decision” and predicted greater violence if his city's law was overturned.
Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard Law School, predicted that the ruling could open the door to challenges of regulations already adopted by state and local governments nationwide.
“Now it's going to be open season on gun regulations,” he said.