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Peterson, Oberstar join in Supreme Court gun rights case

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The U.S. Supreme Court's decision to study an Illinois gun rights ruling has involved nearly all the Minnesota Congressional Delegation.

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Both U.S. Reps. Collin Peterson of the 7th District and Jim Oberstar of the 8th District signed onto a friend of the court brief asking the high court to uphold Second Amendment gun rights at the state and local government level.

The Supreme Court said in late September it would visit the question of whether state and local governments could deny rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment on the federal level. The case, McDonald v. Chicago, specifically questions a Chicago gun control law.

"I'm pleased the Supreme Court is going to address this issue," DFLer Peterson said Wednesday after learning of the court's decision to hear the case. "The court should take this opportunity to make clear what we all already know, that the Second Amendment applies to state and local governments too. No state legislature can take away the freedom to protect yourself."

Last year, in the case District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court decided that the Second Amendment protects an individual's, and not just a group's, right to "keep and bear arms." However, that case only examined federal gun control laws in the District of Columbia, Peterson said. The Chicago lawsuit addresses a remaining question, whether or not the Second Amendment applies to the states.

"I've always been a defender of the Second Amendment," Peterson, a founder of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus, said. "It seems clear to me that no government -- federal, state or local -- can infringe on the right to 'keep and bear arms.'"

The only Minnesota representatives not to join in the amicus curiae are Democrats Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison. Sen. Amy Klobuchar has joined in the brief, Sen. Al Franken has not.

In all, 60 members of Congress have signed onto the brief, led by Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Reps. Mike Ross, D-Ark., and Mark Souder, R-Ind.

In McDonald v. Chicago, Alan Gura, the same attorney who challenged the District of Columbia gun ban, brought suit against gun regulations in Chicago. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his claims and said that the Second Amendment did not apply to the states. The Supreme Court will revisit that decision.

"In fact, even apart from the Second Amendment, the original Constitution restricted the states' ability to infringe the right to keep and bear arms to the extent that doing so would impair Congress' powers under the Militia Clauses," states the friend of the court brief.

The brief cites the 14th Amendment, which states that no "state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunity of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

The high court "has interpreted the 14th Amendment's basic guarantee in Section 1 to prevent the individual states from infringing many of the guarantees of liberty found in the Bill of Rights. It is clear from the nature of the right to keep and bear arms and the history of the 14th Amendment that this right likewise applies against the states," says the brief.

"... the Congress that passed the 14th Amendment left no doubt that it considered the right to keep and bear arms a critical component of its work," it states.

In another argument, the brief also states that "the states may not restrict the right to keep and bear arms in a way that undermines Congress' ability to call forth the militia."

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