The National Rifle Association is asking the Supreme Court to strike down strict gun control laws in the Chicago area, setting the stage for another high court battle over Second Amendment protections for gun owners.
The NRA wants the court to rule that last year's gun rights decision invalidating a handgun ban in the District of Columbia applies as well to local and state laws.
The appeal to the Supreme Court comes almost immediately after a federal appeals court in Chicago said Tuesday that it is bound by earlier Supreme Court decisions which held the Second Amendment applies only to federal laws. Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor was part of an appeals court panel in New York that reached a similar conclusion in January.
Judges on both courts — Republican nominees in Chicago and Democratic nominees in New York — said only the Supreme Court could decide whether to extend last year's ruling throughout the country. Many, but not all, of the constitutional protections in the Bill of Rights have been applied to cities and states.
The framers of the Constitution intended "to protect the right to keep and bear arms and other rights from state infringement," the NRA said in a filing made available at the court Thursday.
One federal appeals panel, from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, has ruled that the Second Amendment does apply broadly. That court, however, is considering whether to take another look at a dispute between Alameda County and gun show promoters.
In the case now pending at the Supreme Court, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld ordinances barring the ownership of handguns in most cases in Chicago and suburban Oak Park, Ill.
Judge Frank Easterbrook said that "the Constitution establishes a federal republic where local differences are to be cherished as elements of liberty rather than extirpated in order to produce a single, nationally applicable rule."
"Federalism is an older and more deeply rooted tradition than is a right to carry any particular kind of weapon," Easterbrook wrote.
Evaluating arguments over the extension of the Second Amendment is a job "for the justices rather than a court of appeals," he said.
Chicago officials said they were pleased with the appeals court ruling and would defend the local laws in front of the Supreme Court, if the justices agree to hear the NRA's case.
Any decision about that probably won't come earlier than late September.
The case is National Rifle Association v. Chicago, 08-1497.