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Overturned handgun ban could have a nationwide impact

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Posted: Monday, July 7, 2008 12:00 am

"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

Though the words have not changed since 1791, the Second Amendment has reaffirmed itself in the nation's capital. But how would the Supreme Court's decision to overturn a 32-year-old handgun ban in Washington, D.C., be felt 650 miles away?

"You can take it to the bank that there will be more gun laws challenged," said Matthew Streb, an assistant political science professor.

Artemus Ward, an associate professor of political science, agrees.

"However, the Court has near total discretion over its docket and can choose whether or not they want to resolve those disputes or leave lower-court decisions in place," Ward said.

The June 26 decision was the first time the Supreme Court addressed a Second Amendment issue since 1939, Ward said.

The decision allows gun activists to challenge local and state ordinances that restrict where a person can legally carry a firearm.

Ward said a legal question still remains, "Whether the Second Amendment applies only to the national government - as in the D.C. case - or if it also applies to state and local governments."

"This case probably signals the end of similar state and local bans around the country," he said.

DeKalb's municipal code states: "No person shall carry concealed upon or about his person within the City, any pistol … or any other weapon."

DeKalb Police Sergeant Jason Leverton said the city's gun laws mirror those of the state.

To legally transport a firearm in Illinois, a person must have a valid Firearm Owner's Identification card and must transport the unloaded gun in a sealed case. It is unlawful in Illinois to carry concealed firearms or to carry any firearm onto public land.

While on campus, it is a violation of NIU's Student Code of Conduct to possess a firearm even if it is in regulation with Illinois state gun laws.

However, according to the code, "Students who wish to bring firearms to the campus must obtain written permission from the chief security officer of the university."

University Police Lieutenant Curtis Young said the policy only exists in case the university ever decided to permit legal gun owners to carry their firearms on campus.

"We don't allow weapons and there is no need to have weapons on campus," Young said.

Leverton said gun arrests are a rare occurrence in DeKalb.

"It doesn't happen more than a few times a year," he said.

There is currently a moratorium on gun sales in Washington, D.C., until the city creates new regulations.

Ward said many existing prohibitions, such as those involving concealed weapons, convicted felons and the mentally challenged, might remain in place.

"The recent decision is a relatively narrow one: articulating a right for most people to have handguns in the home," Ward said.

It is still too soon to determine the nationwide results of the Court's decision, but Ward said the debate concerning gun control would likely continue.

"Gun control regulation has increased dramatically in recent years, as has the activity of interest groups," Ward said. "So guns have become an important public policy issue that people have

fundamental differences over."

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