United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito is the CCRKBA Gun Rights Defender of the Month for August.
In nominating Justice Alito for the CCRKBA Award, John M. Snyder, CCRKBA Public Affairs Director, noted that the jurist “wrote the Supreme Court’s 5-4 June decision in the case of McDonald v. City of Chicago. In his rendering of the Supreme Court’s position, Justice Alito presented a comprehensive discussion of the historical, legal and practical reasons for maintaining that the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution incorporates to state and local governments for individuals the protection of the individual right to keep and bear arms stipulated to the national government for individuals in the Second Amendment. This is a monumental achievement. Justice Alito is most deserving of this CCRKBA recognition and approbation.”
When the Supreme Court ruled in District of Columbia v. Heller two years ago that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms and declared the handgun ban in the District, a federal city, unconstitutional, the question remained as to whether or not states and local governments also were prevented from banning handguns.
Otis McDonald, several other individuals, the Second Amendment Foundation, and the Illinois State Rifle Association maintained that the Heller decision, if properly interpreted, meant that the Chicago handgun ban was unconstitutional. Chicago challenged that position. When the case got to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, that court agreed with the Chicago position. Then, McDonald and the others, represented by attorney Alan Gura, took the case up to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear it, and came down in late June in favor of McDonald and the others.
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Seventh Circuit, and remanded the case to the lower court.
Joining Justice Alito in that decision were Chief Justice John Roberts, and Associate Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas.
Siding with the lower court were Associate Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.
After discussing at length the legal history of the right to keep and bear arms and why the Supreme Court recognized it as an individual right in District of Columbia v. Heller, Justice Alito wrote that the City of Chicago “arguments are at war with our central holding in Heller: that the Second Amendment protects a personal right to keep and bear arms for lawful purposes, most notably for self-defense within the home. Municipal respondents, in effect, ask us to treat the right recognized in Heller as a second-class right, subject to an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of Rights guarantees that we have held to be incorporated into the Due Process Clause.
“Municipal respondents’ main argument is nothing less than a plea to disregard 50 years of incorporation precedent and return (presumably for this case only) to a bygone era. Municipal respondents submit that the Due Process Clause protects only those rights ‘recognized by all temperate and civilized governments, from a deep and universal sense of (their) justice. According to municipal respondents, if it is possible to imagine any civilized legal system that does not recognize a particular right, then the Due Process Clause does not make that binding on the States. Therefore, the municipal respondents continue, because such countries as England, Canada, Australia, Japan, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, and New Zealand either ban or severely limit handgun ownership, it must follow that no right to possess such weapons is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.”
Justice Alito stated that, “This line of argument is, of course, inconsistent with the long-established standard we apply in incorporation cases. And the present-day implications of municipal respondents’ argument are stunning. For example, many of the rights that our Bill of Rights provides for persons accused of criminal offenses are virtually unique in our country. If our understanding of the right to a jury trial, the right against self-incrimination, and the right to counsel were necessary attributes of any civilized country, it would follow that the United States is the only civilized Nation in the world.”
Born in 1950, Justice Alito was nominated to the Supreme Court by President George W. Bush and has served on the court since 2006.
Raised in Hamilton Township, New Jersey, and educated at Princeton University and Yale Law School, Alito served as U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey and a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit before joining the Supreme Court.