Justice Anthony Kennedy may let you pack heat in the park.
The city's controversial (to some) 2008 ban on guns in parks has been upheld


City's Parks Gun Ban Upheld by Feds. But Supreme Court Is Poised to Change All That

Justice Anthony Kennedy may let you pack heat in the park.
The city's controversial (to some) 2008 ban on guns in parks has been upheld in a U.S. District Court ruling today. [Corrections follow.] The decision does not affect a contrary decision in King County Superior Court last month, which deemed the ban to be in violation of state law. Former Mayor Greg Nickels implemented the ban two years ago, in part because of a handgun discharged at the Folklife Festival at Seattle Center. A Kent man named Robert C. Warden promptly sued the city, and now Warden vs. Seattle is grinding its way through the appeals process.

Today, U.S. District Judge Marsha J. Pechman ruled in part that, "the Second Amendment does not apply to the City of Seattle under current 9th Circuit law." Put most simply, local restrictions on guns aren't a federal matter. Well, not yet anyway. A similar case from Chicago is currently being heard in the U.S. Supreme Court, and an expected summer ruling may topple the Pechman decision...

As The New York Times and others have reported, the case of McDonald v. Chicago was argued last week; and it, too, concerns the right of a municipality to restrict handguns. Chicago has very strict gun laws, which McDonald argues contravenes the Second Amendment.

The Supreme Court is now reconsidering whether the Second Amendment also applies to state and local gun laws. An important clue during arguments last week came from crucial swing voter Anthony Kennedy, always the (seeming) moderate in the middle of any crux decision. He voted with the majority in an important 2008 decision, District of Columbia vs. Heller, that DC was bound by the Second Amendment, and therefore that some of its gun laws were unconstitutional.

Heller, decided 5 to 4, is an important bridge to McDonald. And during last week's arguments, Justice Kennedy referred back to it: "If it's not fundamental, then Heller is wrong." The "it" being the right to bear arms at issue in McDonald. Having sided with the majority in Heller, Kennedy--like any judge--doesn't want that decision to be wrong, because he doesn't want to appear inconsistent.

The court will likely issue a decision this summer. Its makeup is essentially the same as when Heller was decided two years ago (Sonia Sotomayor replaced David Souter). And the same attorney who prevailed in that decision, Alan Gura, is working for the plaintiff in McDonald. And though a different New York Times writer was covering the arguments in Heller, Adam Liptak recently wrote of McDonald, "By its conclusion, it seemed plain that the court would extend a 2008 decision that first identified an individual right to own guns to strike down Chicago's gun control law."

That may be confirmed in a couple of months, during which time our local case, Warden vs. Seattle, will be on appeal at the state, not federal, level. (The plaintiff is funded by the Second Amendment Foundation and other advocacy groups.) But if the Supreme Court rules in favor of McDonald, that would essentially invalidate the Nickels gun ban, federalizing what had been considered a local matter.

So even if it's too late to bring your Glock to Folklife, there's always Bumbershoot at the end of the summer.

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