The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago has affirmed the right of local governments to impose reasonable gun restrictions. This is in line with Supreme Court precedent that says gun control isn’t inherently unconstitutional. Put simply, those who buy into the Nation Rifle Association’s dogma that gun ownership cannot be restricted in any way are flat-out wrong.
This latest case again supports the argument being made by St. Louis officials to Missouri leaders: Local governments need the authority to impose their own restrictions based on their own circumstances, and nothing in the Constitution inherently prevents that. In St. Louis’ case, those circumstances include the shooting deaths of more than a dozen children so far this year.
Thursday’s unanimous ruling, by a three-judge panel that includes an appointee of President Donald Trump, upheld a Cook County ordinance banning assault rifles and high-capacity magazines. Previous opinions have upheld various forms of gun control, including the one the gun lobby most loves to cite: District of Columbia v. Heller.
Even that landmark 2008 victory for gun rights — reached by a strongly pro-gun Supreme Court and penned by pro-gun conservative Justice Antonin Scalia — specified that “the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.” Scalia wrote that “nothing in our opinion should be taken” to prevent limits on the types of weapons that are legal, the places they can be carried, or “conditions and qualifications” on their sale.
In response to the recent bloodshed in St. Louis, Mayor Lyda Krewson is calling for a requirement that people get permits before then can carry concealed weapons in the city — a modest, reasonable proposal. Under current state law, just about anyone can buy a gun through a private dealer with no background check, and then carry that gun in public with no permit unless local law restricts it.
That makes it nearly impossible for St. Louis police to prevent these killings because those walking around with guns aren’t clearly violating any law until the moment they start shooting. A requirement for a carry permit might not prevent felons and other barred people from obtaining and carrying weapons, but it would at least give cops a tool to confront them before (rather than after) they pull the trigger.
Yet the state continues to prevent St. Louis from imposing local ordinances tougher than state law. Gov. Mike Parson and his fellow outstate Republicans who control the Legislature tend to wrap themselves in the Second Amendment on this issue, acting as if their hands are tied.
Well, they aren’t — as the Supreme Court has said, and as the 7th Circuit just reiterated. With every shooting here, the public needs to remember: Missouri’s state politicians aren’t forced by the Constitution to allow this to continue. They’ve made a conscious political decision to do it.