Legal observers, including respected policy experts, waited overnight on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court to secure front-row seats for Tuesday’s arguments for McDonald v. Chicago, a seminal Second Amendment case. Gun rights advocates expect the case, to be decided in June, will expand the rights established in D.C. v. Heller to all 50 states and result in the overturning of Chicago’s strict handgun ban.
It also is likely to inspire much gnashing of teeth on the part of gun restrictionists.
Outside the court, it looked like a normal Tuesday, with the possible exception of Mark Arthur and a few other people in white T-shirts and blue ball caps reading marylandshallissue.org, all of them holding pro-McDonald signs. Arthur is one of several Maryland residents who traveled to Washington to celebrate the likelihood of looser gun laws in his state which could allow for the relaxing of concealed-carry permits.
The sparse crowd belied the case’s significance. Named for plaintiff Otis McDonald, a retired African-American engineer and Army veteran from Illinois, the case challenges Chicago’s comprehensive handgun ban and is being argued by Alan Gura, the lead attorney in D.C. v. Heller. Should the high court rule in favor of McDonald (or the NRA, in the case’s alternate naming, NRA v. Chicago), Chicago residents will be allowed to buy and own handguns, and Chicago will have to legislate new laws to regulate the extent to which Chicagoans can take those guns outside their homes.
He made the same trip in winter 2008, when the court heard arguments for Heller. Unlike Tuesday, the scene on 1st St. NE wasn’t quite so serene then. “It was a madhouse outside the Heller hearing,” Arthur said. “Supporters and protesters were split 50-50 and everyone was yelling.”
This case, he said, “is just the opposite.”
Which is to say: Gun rights advocates know they’re going to win and gun rights opponents know they’re going to lose.
While reluctant to say so plainly, the National Rifle Association’s Chris W. Cox communicated as much in a phone call. “The NRA is as optimistic as you can be before any court,” Cox said after attending the hearing. “The next step is we wait until June and see what happens.”
Josh Blackman, president of the Harlan Institute, told The Daily Caller that a victory for McDonald is imminent. “Either way they go,” Blackman said, in reference to the two arguments the court heard Tuesday for incorporating Heller through the Privileges or Immunities Clause or substantive due process, “the gun law will be struck down.”
Like McDonald (the plaintiff), Arthur is a Democrat. He describes himself as a liberal and a fan of judicial activism. He also said that he prefers grassroots activism over the other kind, and doesn’t really care how the court justifies incorporating Heller, only that it does so. “We continue adding members at the rate we’re growing,” Arthur said of Maryland Shall Carry, “and we could bring change to gun laws without the court.”
Before Arthur could elaborate, one of the Maryland Shall Issue* members called for his attention. “Dick Heller’s here!” the person yelled, and Arthur was off like a shot. After all, it’s not every day that the biggest contemporary hero of the Second Amendment shows up at the Supreme Court unannounced.
An earlier version of this story mistakenly called Mark Arthur’s organization ‘Maryland Shall Carry.’ Our thanks to Arthur for pointing out the mistake. Mike Riggs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org