Wyoming Liberty Group
WLG joins Chicago Gun Case
Living conditions in post-Civil War New Orleans weren’t exactly what you would call ideal.
Water from the Mississippi River was polluted with the waste from dozens of slaughterhouses that operated about a mile up stream from the city. This waste, including intestines, blood and feces would clog around pipes that provided drinking water to the city. The pollution led to massive outbreaks of cholera, yellow fever and other diseases.
Reacting to the need of the people to have clean water, the Louisiana Legislature decided to take action. Rather than require the slaughterhouses to stop dumping their waste into the river or simply relocate them downstream from the city, the legislature instead consolidated all of the slaughterhouses and granted 17 people the right to operate the only slaughterhouse in Orleans. All other slaughterhouses were shut down and any butcher who wanted to continue his trade was required to rent space in the new slaughterhouse at a “reasonable” price.
Not surprisingly 25 independent butchers took issue with this and filed a lawsuit, which made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The displaced butchers invoked the newly created 14th Amendment language that guaranteed due process, privileges and immunities and equal protection. In a 5 to 4 decision, the Court ruled against the butchers and in the process gutted the privileges and immunities clause from the 14th Amendment and separated state citizenship from national citizenship.
Flash forward to 2008 and former U.S. Army Paratrooper Dick Heller in our nation’s capital.
Heller moved from San Diego, Calif., to Washington D.C. in 1962, where he worked as a security guard in the federal courts building. Every day he would go to work and strap a handgun to his side to provide protection for the court system, but at home, where he lived across from the crime riddled Kentucky Courts public housing project, he was defenseless.
Handgun ownership is something that is often taken for granted in the Cowboy State and Wyomingites often forget there are law-abiding citizens in this country who are forbidden from owning a handgun.
All Heller wanted to do was protect himself and his home, so he went to the city and applied for a permit so he could own a small .22 caliber handgun for self defense. (D.C. law at the time forbid owning a handgun with out a permit) Heller’s request was denied despite his extensive firearms training.
Heller wasn’t willing to take no for an answer. Along with four other D.C. residents in similar situations, Heller filed a law suit that eventually made its way to the U.S Supreme Court. In a 5 to 4 decision the Court upheld his Second Amendment firearm ownership rights. The majority opinion found that the Second Amendment guaranteed the right to bear arms outside of a state organized militia. The dissenting opinion stated that the Second Amendment only guaranteed the right to bear arms for an organized militia. Unfortunately this ruling only applies to federal enclaves like Washington D.C. and does not apply to the states.
At first glance it would appear that the Slaughterhouse Case and Heller’s case have little in common. In reality both of these cases are about to come into play as the Supreme Court gets ready to hear the case of Otis McDonald v. the City of Chicago.
Otis McDonald has never been afraid to take a stand. He served in the Army in the 1960s and then worked as a maintenance engineer at the University of Chicago, where he fought to integrate his local union. He later took on a leadership role in that union. McDonald went on to be a civil rights and community activist who worked to rid his neighborhood of drug dealers.
McDonald, like thousands of Americans, is a handgun owner. But Chicago’s handgun ban, like the defeated D.C. ban, requires McDonald to store his handgun out of city limits, denying him protection where he is most likely to need it. Chicago’s ban has been in place for 27 years.
Chicago’s law does more than ban handguns; it requires law-abiding gun owners to pay an annual registration fee for all of their firearms. If this fee is not paid on time the gun cannot be registered and becomes an illegal firearm in the city. The previously law-abiding gun owner faces fines and/or up to six months in jail.
At first glance it may be hard to see what the last two gun cases have to do with an 1800’s Supreme Court case dealing with a group of butchers, but the ripples of the Slaughterhouse cases are the core issue in McDonald v. Chicago: Do rights enumerated in the 14th Amendment apply in state and local jurisdictions, or are they restricted to federal jurisdictions?
The 14th Amendment clearly states, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” But when the Supreme Court ruled against the independent butchers in the Slaughterhouse Cases, the court essentially removed the protections guaranteed in the 14th Amendment. State laws prejudicial to African Americans thrived in the years that followed. The Court now has the rare opportunity to overturn a precedent that many constitutional scholars believe should have never been set in the first place. This opportunity would not be possible if Heller’s case had not paved the way for McDonald’s challenge of Chicago’s handgun ban.
McDonald is not standing alone in this challenge. The Second Amendment Foundation, Illinois State Rifle Association and a group of Chicago residents are standing right by his side. In addition, 34 states have filed briefs and are behind him in this case. McDonald also has the support of the Gun Owners Foundation, Gun Owners of America, National Rifle Association (which filed a separate suit challenging Chicago’s ban), Constitutional Law Professors, Institute for Justice, Cato Institute, Arms Keepers, Goldwater Institute and many others.
Wyoming Liberty Group has joined Nicholas Dranias of the Goldwater Institute in filing an amicus brief in which Dranias argues for overturning the Slaughterhouse ruling, a precedent that “has obscured the proper relationship between state sovereignty and the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of rightful liberty.”