The Supreme Court says the Constitution's "right to keep and bear arms" applies nationwide as a restraint on the ability of government to limit its application. The justices' decision today casts doubt on a Chicago-area handgun ban, but their 5-4 vote also signaled that less severe restrictions could survive legal challenges. Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the court, said the Second Amendment right "applies equally to the federal government and the states."
The court was split along familiar ideological lines, with five conservative-moderate justices in favor of gun rights and the four liberals opposed. Two years ago, the court declared that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to possess guns, at least for purposes of self-defense in the home. That ruling applied only to federal laws. It struck down a ban on handguns and a trigger lock requirement for other guns in the District of Columbia. At the same time, the court was careful not to cast doubt on other regulations of firearms here. (Read more US Supreme Court stories.)