Monday, November 23, 2009

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Texas Attorney General Abbott Defends Texans' Second Amendment Right to Keep and Bear Arms

AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today took legal action to protect Texans’ Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. In a brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court and authored by Attorney General Abbott, 38 state attorneys general explain that law-abiding Americans have a fundamental right to bear arms – and that local governments cannot simply disregard that right and impose an outright ban on handgun possession.

“Just last year we successfully fought to have the U.S. Supreme Court confirm that Americans have an individual, constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms,” Attorney General Abbott said. “Now, the City of Chicago claims that the Supreme Court’s year-old decision does not apply to local governments – so cities and towns can simply ignore the Second Amendment and pass laws that disregard city residents’ constitutionally protected rights. In response, we’ve built a coalition of 38 state attorneys general who reject Chicago’s attempt to circumvent the Constitution and who understand that all Americans – whether they live in D.C. or not – have a fundamental right to keep and bear arms.”

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Attorney General's brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court

The attorney general’s brief in McDonald v. Chicago supports a legal challenge by Otis McDonald, a community activist who lives in a high-crime Chicago neighborhood. McDonald’s work to improve his neighborhood subjected him to violent threats from drug dealers, but City of Chicago ordinances prohibit him from obtaining a handgun to protect himself.

Last year, Attorney General Abbott and 31 other state attorneys general filed an amicus brief in District of Columbia v. Heller, in which they urged the Supreme Court to overturn a Washington, D.C., law that banned all handguns and required that rifles and shotguns be disassembled or encumbered by trigger locks at all times. In a landmark 2008 decision, the Court agreed with the attorney general’s position and declared the federal city’s handgun ban unconstitutional, holding that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms.

As Attorney General Abbott’s brief explains: “The Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms is a critical liberty interest, essential to preserving individual security and the right to self-defense.” Nonetheless, the City of Chicago contends that the Second Amendment does not protect citizens from municipal action that abrogates the constitution because it claims the Supreme Court’s decision in the Heller case does not apply to state and local governments.

The states’ brief refutes that argument, stating that the Constitutional protections apply to – and therefore limit – cities, counties, and other local governmental entities throughout the U.S. under the Fourteenth Amendment. “Just as local governments cannot constitutionally act as ‘laboratories’ for initiatives to abrogate their citizens’ right to free speech or their freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, nor can they nullify the fundamental right to keep and bear arms secured by the Second Amendment,” the brief contends.

If Chicago’s unconstitutional gun ban were allowed to stand, the attorneys general explain, “millions of Americans will be deprived of their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms as a result of actions by local governments, such as the ordinances challenged in this case.”

The states’ amicus brief acknowledges that some firearms regulations are permissible, including in circumstances where they are necessary to prevent violent felons from owning guns.

Attorney General Abbott’s brief is co-sponsored by Ohio, Arkansas and Georgia. Other states that joined the brief are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.