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McDonald Gun Case: More Deaths, Unending Litigation

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The winners in today's Supreme Court decision in McDonald v. Chicago?

The gun lobby and gunmakers.

Each seeks nothing less than the complete dismantling of our nation's gun laws in a cynical effort to try and stem the long-term drop in gun ownership and save the fading gun industry. Today's decision, which applies nationwide the Court's 2008 ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller that there is a Second Amendment right to keep a handgun in your home for self-defense, is viewed as a vital step in expanding this battlefield.

The losers?

America's communities and the victims of gun violence.

The 30,000 lives claimed annually by gun violence and the families destroyed in the wake of gun homicides, suicides, murder-suicides, and mass shootings mean little to the gun lobby and the firearm manufacturers it protects. Today's decision will only add to this toll. At the same time, the decision will result in an inevitable tide of frivolous pro-gun litigation that will force cities, counties, and states to expend scarce resources to defend longstanding, effective public safety laws.

More guns means more gun death. States with lax gun laws and higher gun ownership rates consistently lead the nation in per capita gun death, while states with strict gun laws and lower gun ownership have lower gun death rates. In 2007, the most recent year for which data is available, the five states with the highest per capita gun death rates were Louisiana, Mississippi, Alaska, Alabama, and Nevada. Each of these states had a per capita gun death rate far exceeding the national per capita gun death rate of 10.34 per 100,000 for 2007. By contrast, states with strong gun laws and low rates of gun ownership had far lower rates of firearm-related death. Ranking last in the nation for gun death was Hawaii, followed by Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York.

And contrary to the claims of the gun lobby, America's cities are not waiting expectantly to exercise this newfound right offered by the Court. According to DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier, in the two years since the 2008 Heller decision overturning DC's handgun ban, only 900 firearms have been registered in the District that otherwise could not have been registered before the ruling. The citizens of DC have thus far rejected the wrong-headed notion that more guns make us safer.

One can only hope that Chicago's citizens will do the same.