W4 2 Todd Patterson, a 33-year-old husband and father, is a proud gun owner who has multiple handguns, shotguns, and two automatic weapons. In this case an automatic weapon is defined as a firearm that continuously fires so long as the user presses the trigger and there is ammunition in the gun.
Todd has no criminal record. When he was 17 years old, after losing both his parents in a plane crash, he had a mental breakdown resulting in a six-month institutionalization. Todd lives in the fictitious state of Varneyland where he works as a social studies teacher and soccer coach at a local high school.
On a sunny morning in a neighboring state, a man with a history of mental illness enters an elementary school and kills 3 teachers and 10 students with an automatic assault rifle. In response to this shooting, many states across the country, including Varneyland, pass legislation requiring the registration of all automatic weapons. As part of the registration process, those seeking to register their automatic weapons are required to submit to a mental health background check.
In filling out the application to register his automatic weapon, Todd reveals his prior institutionalization, but also states that he has not had any mental health issues since he was a teenager. When the state of Varneyland conducts Todd’s mental health background check, it uncovers that Todd had a diagnosis of major depression with suicidal tendencies. Todd’s mental health records also reveal a history of self-harm.
Based on the review of Todd’s mental health records, Varneyland denies Todd’s application to register his automatic weapons and sends Todd a letter demanding that he forfeit his automatic weapons or risk criminal and civil penalties. Because Todd refuses to hand over his automatic weapons, the state police arrest him and charge him with possession of an unregistered automatic weapon (a felony crime under Varneyland law).
At his criminal trial, Todd argues that the registration requirements and his subsequent arrest are violations of his Second Amendment rights.
Based on recent case law, do you think that Todd’s arguments possess any merit? Please be sure to specifically discuss recent case law and how it affects Todd’s case.
Please note that the recent 2nd Amendment case law is described in the Week 4 Content section of the classroom.
Please note that your answers have nothing to do with your personal feelings, thoughts or experiences with these issues. Your answers are to be based purely on the law, specifically precedent set by case law. Reviewing the Week 4 content will be very helpful to you in finding relevant case law. 1 (Slip Opinion) OCTOBER TERM, 2009
NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is
being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued.
The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been
prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader.
See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321, 337.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
MCDONALD ET AL. v. CITY OF CHICAGO, ILLINOIS,
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR
THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT
No. 08–1521. Argued March 2, 2010—Decided June 28, 2010
Two years ago, in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U. S. ___, this
Court held that the Second Amendment protects the right to keep
and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense and struck down a Dis-
trict of Columbia law that banned the possession of handguns in the
home. Chicago (hereinafter City) and the village of Oak Park, a Chi-
cago suburb, have laws effectively banning handgun possession by
almost all private citizens. After Heller, petitioners filed this federal
suit against the City, which was consolidated with two related ac-
tions, alleging that the City’s handgun ban has left them vulnerable
to criminals. They sought a declaration that the ban and several re-
lated City ordinances violate the Second and Fourteenth Amend-
ments. Rejecting petitioners’ argument that the ordinances are un-
constitutional, the court noted that the Seventh Circuit previously
had upheld the constitutionality of a handgun ban, that Heller had
explicitly refrained from opining on whether the Second Amendment
applied to the States, and that the court had a duty to follow estab-
lished Circuit precedent. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, relying on
three 19th-century cases—United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U. S. 542,
Presser v. Illinois, 116 U. S. 252, and Miller v. Texas, 153 U. S. 535—
which were decided in the wake of this Court’s interpretation of the
Fourteenth Amendment’s Privileges or Immunities Clause in the
Slaughter-House Cases, 16 Wall. 36.
Held: The judgment is reversed, and the case is remanded.
567 F. 3d 856, reversed and remanded.
JUSTICE ALITO delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to
Parts I, II–A, II–B, II–D, III–A, and III–B, concluding that the Four-
2 MCDONALD v. CHICAGO
teenth Amendment incorporates the Second Amendment right, rec-
ognized in Heller, to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-
defense. Pp. 5–9, 11–19, 19–33.
(a) Petitioners base their case on two submissions. Primarily, they
argue that the right to keep and bear arms is protected by the Privi-
leges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and that
the Slaughter-House Cases’ narrow interpretation of the Clause
should now be rejected. As a secondary argument, they contend that
the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause incorporates the
Second Amendment right. Chicago and Oak Park (municipal respon-
dents) maintain that a right set out in the Bill of Rights applies to
the States only when it is an indispensable attribute of any “ ‘civi-
lized’ ” legal system. If it is possible to imagine a civilized country
that does not recognize the right, municipal respondents assert, that
right is not protected by due process. And since there are civilized
countries that ban or strictly regulate the private possession of hand-
guns, they maintain that due process does not preclude such meas-
ures. Pp. 4–5.
(b) The Bill of Rights, including the Second Amendment, originally
applied only to the Federal Government, not to the States, see, e.g.,
Barron ex rel. Tiernan v. Mayor of Baltimore, 7 Pet. 243, 247, but the
constitutional Amendments adopted in the Civil War’s aftermath
fundamentally altered the federal system. Four years after the adop-
tion of the Fourteenth Amendment, this Court held in the Slaughter-
House Cases, that the Privileges or Immunities Clause protects only
those rights “which owe their existence to the Federal government,
its National character, its Constitution, or its laws,” 16 Wall., at 79,
and that the fundamental rights predating the creation of the Fed-
eral Government were not protected by the Clause, id., at 76. Under
this narrow reading, the Court held that the Privileges or Immunities
Clause protects only very limited rights. Id., at 79–80. Subse-
quently, the Court held that the Second Amendment applies only to
the Federal Government in Cruikshank, 92 U. S. 542, Presser, 116
U. S. 252, and Miller, 153 U. S. 535, the decisions on which the Sev-
enth Circuit relied in this case. Pp. 5–9.
(c) Whether the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms
applies to the States is considered in light of the Court’s precedents
applying the Bill of Rights’ protections to the States. Pp. 11–19.
(1) In the late 19th century, the Court began to hold that the Due
Process Clause prohibits the States from infringing Bill of Rights pro-
tections. See, e.g., Hurtado v. California, 110 U. S. 516. Five fea-
tures of the approach taken during the ensuing era are noted. First,
the Court viewed the due process question as entirely separate from
the question whether a right was a privilege or immunity of national
3 Cite as: 561 U. S. ____ (2010)
citizenship. See Twining v. New Jersey, 211 U. S. 78, 99. Second, the
Court explained that the only rights due process protected against
state infringement were those “of such a nature that they are in-
cluded in the conception of due process of law.” Ibid. Third, some
cases during this era “can be seen as having asked . . . if a civilized
system could be imagined that would not accord the particular pro-
tection” asserted therein. Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U. S. 145, 149,
n. 14. Fourth, the Court did not hesitate to hold that a Bill of Rights
guarantee failed to meet the test for Due Process Clause protection,
finding, e.g., that freedom of speech and press qualified, Gitlow v.
New York, 268 U. S. 652, 666; Near v. Minnesota ex rel. Olson, 283
U. S. 697, but the grand jury indictment requirement did not, Hur-
tado, supra. Finally, even when such a right was held to fall within
the conception of due process, the protection or remedies afforded
against state infringement sometimes differed from those provided
against abridgment by the Federal Government. Pp. 11–13.
(2) Justice Black championed the alternative theory that §1 of
the Fourteenth Amendment totally incorporated all of the Bill of
Rights’ provisions, see, e.g., Adamson v. California, 332 U. S. 46, 71–
72 (Black, J., dissenting), but the Court never has embraced that the-
ory. Pp. 13–15.
(3) The Court eventually moved in the direction advocated by
Justice Black, by adopting a theory of selective incorporation by
which the Due Process Clause incorporates particular rights con-
tained in the first eight Amendments. See, e.g., Gideon v. Wainwright,
372 U. S. 335, 341. These decisions abandoned three of the charac-
teristics of the earlier period. The Court clarified that the governing
standard is whether a particular Bill of Rights protection is funda-
mental to our Nation’s particular scheme of ordered liberty and sys-
tem of justice. Duncan, supra, at 149, n. 14. The Court eventually
held that almost all of the Bill of Rights’ guarantees met the re-
quirements for protection under the Due Process Clause. The Court
also held that Bill of Rights protections must “all . . . be enforced
against the States under the Fourteenth Amendment according to
the same standards that protect those personal rights against federal
encroachment.” Malloy v. Hogan, 378 U. S. 1, 10. Under this ap-
proach, the Court overruled earlier decisions holding that particular
Bill of Rights guarantees or remedies did not apply to the States.
See, e.g., Gideon, supra, which overruled Betts v. Brady, 316 U. S.
455. Pp. 15–19.
(d) The Fourteenth Amendment makes the Second Amendment
right to keep and bear arms fully applicable to the States. Pp. 19–33.
(1) The Court must decide whether that right is fundamental to
the Nation’s scheme of ordered liberty, Duncan v. Louisiana, 391
4 MCDONALD v. CHICAGO
U. S. 145, 149, or, as the Court has said in a related context, whether
it is “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition,” Washing-
ton v. Glucksberg, 521 U. S. 702, 721. Heller points unmistakably to
the answer. Self-defense is a basic right, recognized by many legal
systems from ancient times to the present, and the Heller Court held
that individual self-defense is “the central component” of the Second
Amendment right. 554 U. S., at ___, ___. Explaining that “the need
for defense of self, family, and property is most acute” in the home,
ibid., the Court found that this right applies to handguns because
they are “the most preferred firearm in the nation to ‘keep’ and use
for protection of one’s home and family,” id., at ___, ___–___. It thus
concluded that citizens must be permitted “to use [handguns] for the
core lawful purpose of self-defense.” Id., at ___. Heller also clarifies
that this right is “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradi-
tions,” Glucksberg, supra, at 721. Heller explored the right’s origins
in English law and noted the esteem with which the right was re-
garded during the colonial era and at the time of the ratification of
the Bill of Rights. This is powerful evidence that the right was re-
garded as fundamental in the sense relevant here. That understand-
ing persisted in the years immediately following the Bill of Rights’
ratification and is confirmed by the state constitutions of that era,
which protected the right to keep and bear arms. Pp. 19–22.
(2) A survey of the contemporaneous history also demonstrates
clearly that the Fourteenth Amendment’s Framers and ratifiers
counted the right to keep and bear arms among those fundamental
rights necessary to the Nation’s system of ordered liberty. Pp. 22–33.
(i) By the 1850’s, the fear that the National Government would
disarm the universal militia had largely faded, but the right to keep
and bear arms was highly valued for self-defense. Abolitionist au-
thors wrote in support of the right, and attempts to disarm “Free-
Soilers” in “Bloody Kansas,” met with outrage that the constitutional
right to keep and bear arms had been taken from the people. After
the Civil War, the Southern States engaged in systematic efforts to
disarm and injure African Americans, see Heller, supra, at ___.
These injustices prompted the 39th Congress to pass the Freedmen’s
Bureau Act of 1866 and the Civil Rights Act of 1866 to protect the
right to keep and bear arms. Congress, however, ultimately deemed
these legislative remedies insufficient, and approved the Fourteenth
Amendment. Today, it is generally accepted that that Amendment
was understood to provide a constitutional basis for protecting the
rights set out in the Civil Rights Act. See General Building Contrac-
tors Assn., Inc. v. Pennsylvania, 458 U. S. 375, 389. In Congressional
debates on the proposed Amendment, its legislative proponents in the
39th Congress referred to the right to keep and bear arms as a fun-
5 Cite as: 561 U. S. ____ (2010)
damental right deserving of protection. Evidence from the period
immediately following the Amendment’s ratification confirms that
that right was considered fundamental. Pp. 22–31.
(ii) Despite all this evidence, municipal respondents argue that
Members of Congress overwhelmingly viewed §1 of the Fourteenth
Amendment as purely an antidiscrimination rule. But while §1 does
contain an antidiscrimination rule, i.e., the Equal Protection Clause,
it can hardly be said that the section does no more than prohibit dis-
crimination. If what municipal respondents mean is that the Second
Amendment should be singled out for special—and specially unfavor-
able—treatment, the Court rejects the suggestion. The right to keep
and bear arms must be regarded as a substantive guarantee, not a
prohibition that could be ignored so long as the States legislated in
an evenhanded manner. Pp. 30–33.
JUSTICE ALITO, joined by THE CHIEF JUSTICE, JUSTICE SCALIA, and
JUSTICE KENNEDY, concluded, in Parts II–C, IV, and V, that the Four-
teenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause incorporates the Second
Amendment right recognized in Heller. Pp. 10–11, 33–44.
(a) Petitioners argue that that the Second Amendment right is one
of the “privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.”
There is no need to reconsider the Court’s interpretation of the Privi-
leges or Immunities Clause in the Slaughter-House Cases because,
for many decades, the Court has analyzed the question whether par-
ticular rights are protected against state infringement under the
Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. Pp. 10–11.
(b) Municipal respondents’ remaining arguments are rejected be-
cause they are at war with Heller’s central holding. In effect, they
ask the Court to hold the right to keep and bear arms as subject to a
different body of rules for incorporation than the other Bill of Rights
guarantees. Pp. 33–40.
(c) The dissents’ objections are addressed and rejected. Pp. 41–44.
JUSTICE THOMAS agreed that the Fourteenth Amendment makes
the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms that was recog-
nized in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U. S. ___, fully applicable
to the States. However, he asserted, there is a path to this conclusion
that is more straightforward and more faithful to the Second
Amendment’s text and history. The Court is correct in describing the
Second Amendment right as “fundamental” to the American scheme
of ordered liberty, Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U. S. 145, 149, and
“deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and traditions,” Washington v.
Glucksberg, 521 U. S. 702, 721. But the Fourteenth Amendment’s
Due Process Clause, which speaks only to “process,” cannot impose
the type of substantive restraint on state legislation that the Court
asserts. Rather, the right to keep and bear arms is enforceable
6 MCDONALD v. CHICAGO
against the States because it is a privilege of American citizenship
recognized by §1 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which provides, inter
alia: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the
privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” In inter-
preting this language, it is important to recall that constitutional
provisions are “ ‘written to be understood by the voters.’ ” Heller, 554
U. S., at ___. The objective of this inquiry is to discern what “ordi-
nary citizens” at the time of the Fourteenth Amendment’s ratification
would have understood that Amendment’s Privileges or Immunities
Clause to mean. Ibid. A survey of contemporary legal authorities
plainly shows that, at that time, the ratifying public understood the
Clause to protect constitutionally enumerated rights, including the
right to keep and bear arms. Pp. 1–34.
ALITO, J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the
opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II–A, II–B, II–D, III–A, and
III–B, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and SCALIA, KENNEDY, and THOMAS, JJ.,
joined, and an opinion with respect to Parts II–C, IV, and V, in which
ROBERTS, C. J., and SCALIA and KENNEDY, JJ., join. SCALIA, J., filed a
concurring opinion. THOMAS, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and
concurring in the judgment. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion.
BREYER, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which GINSBURG and SO-
TOMAYOR, JJ., joined.
1 Cite as: 561 U. S. ____ (2010)
Opinion of the Court
NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the
preliminary print of the United States Reports. Readers are requested to
notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of the United States, Wash-
ington, D. C. 20543, of any typographical or other formal errors, in order
that corrections may be made before the preliminary print goes to press.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
OTIS MCDONALD, ET AL., PETITIONERS v. CITY OF
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, ET AL.
ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF
APPEALS FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT
[June 28, 2010]
JUSTICE ALITO announced the judgment of the Court
and delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to
Parts I, II–A, II–B, II–D, III–A, and III–B, in which THE
CHIEF JUSTICE, JUSTICE SCALIA, JUSTICE KENNEDY, and
JUSTICE THOMAS join, and an opinion with respect to
Parts II–C, IV, and V, in which THE CHIEF JUSTICE,
JUSTICE SCALIA, and JUSTICE KENNEDY join.
Two years ago, in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554
U. S. ___ (2008), we held that the Second Amendment
protects the right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of
self-defense, and we struck down a District of Columbia
law that banned the possession of handguns in the home.
The city of Chicago (City) and the village of Oak Park, a
Chicago suburb, have laws that are similar to the District
of Columbia’s, but Chicago and Oak Park argue that their
laws are constitutional because the Second Amendment
has no application to the States. We have previously held
that most of the provisions of the Bill of Rights apply with
full force to both the Federal Government and the States.
Applying the standard that is well established in our case
law, we hold that the Second Amendment right is fully
2 MCDONALD v. CHICAGO
Opinion of the Court
applicable to the States.
Otis McDonald, Adam Orlov, Colleen Lawson, and
David Lawson (Chicago petitioners) are Chicago residents
who would like to keep handguns in their homes for self-
defense but are prohibited from doing so by Chicago’s
firearms laws. A City ordinance provides that “[n]o person
shall . . . possess . . . any firearm unless such person is the
holder of a valid registration certificate for such firearm.”
Chicago, Ill., Municipal Code §8–20–040(a) (2009). The
Code then prohibits registration of most handguns, thus
effectively banning handgun possession by almost all
private citizens who reside in the City. §8–20–050(c).
Like Chicago, Oak Park makes it “unlawful for any person
to possess . . . any firearm,” a term that includes “pistols,
revolvers, guns and small arms . . . commonly known as
handguns.” Oak Park, Ill., Municipal Code §§27–2–1
(2007), 27–1–1 (2009).
Chicago enacted its handgun ban to protect its residents
“from the loss of property and injury or death from fire-
arms.” See Chicago, Ill., Journal of Proceedings of the
City Council, p. 10049 (Mar. 19, 1982). The Chicago peti-
tioners and their amici, however, argue that the handgun
ban has left them vulnerable to criminals. Chicago Police
Department statistics, we are told, reveal that the City’s
handgun murder rate has actually increased since the ban
was enacted1 and that Chicago residents now face one of
the highest murder rates in the country and rates of other
violent crimes that exceed the average in comparable
1 See Brief for Heartland Institute as Amicus Curiae 6–7 (noting that
handgun murder rate was 9.65 in 1983 and 13.88 in 2008).
2 Brief for Buckeye Firearms Foundation, Inc., et al. as Amici Curiae
8–9 (“In 2002 and again in 2008, Chicago had more murders than any
other city in the U. S., including the much larger Los Angeles and New
3 Cite as: 561 U. S. ____ (2010)
Opinion of the Court
Several of the Chicago petitioners have been the targets
of threats and violence. For instance, Otis McDonald, who
is in his late seventies, lives in a high-crime neighborhood.
He is a community activist involved with alternative
policing strategies, and his efforts to improve his
neighborhood have subjected him to violent threats from
drug dealers. App. 16–17; Brief for State Firearm Associa-
tions as Amici Curiae 20–21; Brief for State of Texas et al.
as Amici Curiae 7–8. Colleen Lawson is a Chicago resi-
dent whose home has been targeted by burglars. “In Mrs.
Lawson’s judgment, possessing a handgun in Chicago
would decrease her chances of suffering serious injury or
death should she ever be threatened again in her home.”3
McDonald, Lawson, and the other Chicago petitioners own
handguns that they store outside of the city limits, but
they would like to keep their handguns in their homes for
protection. See App. 16–19, 43–44 (McDonald), 20–24 (C.
Lawson), 19, 36 (Orlov), 20–21, 40 (D. Lawson).
After our decision in Heller, the Chicago petitioners and
two groups4 filed suit against the City in the United States
District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. They
sought a declaration that the handgun ban and several
related Chicago ordinances violate the Second and Four-
teenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
Another action challenging the Oak Park law was filed in
the same District Court by the National Rifle Association
(NRA) and two Oak Park residents. In addition, the NRA
and others filed a third action challenging the Chicago
York” (internal quotation marks omitted)); see also Brief for Interna-
tional Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association et al. as
Amici Curiae 17–21, and App. A (providing comparisons of Chicago’s
rates of assault, murder, and robbery to average crime rates in 24 other
3 Brief for Women State Legislators et al. as Amici Curiae 2.
4 The Illinois State Rifle Association and the Second Amendment
4 MCDONALD v. CHICAGO
Opinion of the Court
ordinances. All three cases were assigned to the same
The District Court rejected plaintiffs’ argument that the
Chicago and Oak Park laws are unconstitutional. See
App. 83–84; NRA, Inc. v. Oak Park, 617 F. Supp. 2d 752,
754 (ND Ill. 2008). The court noted that the Seventh
Circuit had “squarely upheld the constitutionality of a ban
on handguns a quarter century ago,” id., at 753 (citing
Quilici v. Morton Grove, 695 F. 2d 261 (CA7 1982)), and
that Heller had explicitly refrained from “opin[ing] on the
subject of incorporation vel non of the Second Amend-
ment,” NRA, 617 F. Supp. 2d, at 754. The court observed
that a district judge has a “duty to follow established
precedent in the Court of Appeals to which he or she is
beholden, even though the logic of more recent caselaw
may point in a different direction.” Id., at 753.
The Seventh Circuit affirmed, relying on three 19th-
century cases—United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U. S. 542
(1876), Presser v. Illinois, 116 U. S. 252 (1886), and Miller
v. Texas, 153 U. S. 535 (1894)—that were decided in the
wake of this Court’s interpretation of the Privileges or
Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in the
Slaughter-House Cases, 16 Wall. 36 (1873). The Seventh
Circuit described the rationale of those cases as “defunct”
and recognized that they did not consider the question
whether the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause
incorporates the Second Amendment right to keep and
bear arms. NRA, Inc. v. Chicago, 567 F. 3d 856, 857, 858
(2009). Nevertheless, the Seventh Circuit observed that it
was obligated to follow Supreme Court precedents that
have “direct application,” and it declined to predict how
the Second Amendment would fare under this Court’s
modern “selective incorporation” approach. Id., at 857–
858 (internal quotation marks omitted).
We granted certiorari. 557 U. S. ___ (2009).
5 Cite as: 561 U. S. ____ (2010)
Opinion of the Court
Petitioners argue that the Chicago and Oak Park laws
violate the right to keep and bear arms for two reasons.
Petitioners’ primary submission is that this right is among
the “privileges or immunities of citizens of the United
States” and that the narrow interpretation of the Privi-
leges or Immunities Clause adopted in the Slaughter-
House Cases, supra, should now be rejected. As a secon-
dary argument, petitioners contend that the Fourteenth
Amendment’s Due Process Clause “incorporates” the
Second Amendment right.
Chicago and Oak Park (municipal respondents) main-
tain that a right set out in the Bill of Rights applies to the
States only if that right is an indispensable attribute of
any “ ‘civilized’ ” legal system. Brief for Municipal Respon-
dents 9. If it is possible to imagine a civilized country that
does not recognize the right, the municipal respondents
tell us, then that right is not protected by due process.
Ibid. And since there are civilized countries that ban or
strictly regulate the private possession of handguns, the
municipal respondents maintain that due process does not
preclude such measures. Id., at 21–23. In light of the
parties’ far-reaching arguments, we begin by recounting
this Court’s analysis over the years of the relationship
between the provisions of the Bill of Rights and the States.
The Bill of Rights, including the Second Amendment,
originally applied only to the Federal Government. In
Barron ex rel. Tiernan v. Mayor of Baltimore, 7 Pet. 243
(1833), the Court, in an opinion by Chief Justice Marshall,
explained that this question was “of great importance” but
“not of much difficulty.” Id., at 247. In less than four
pages, the Court firmly rejected the proposition that the
first eight Amendments operate as limitations on the
6 MCDONALD v. CHICAGO
Opinion of the Court
States, holding that they apply only to the Federal Gov-
ernment. See also Lessee of Livingston v. Moore, 7 Pet.
469, 551–552 (1833) (“[I]t is now settled that those amend-
ments [in the Bill of Rights] do not extend to the states”).
The constitutional Amendments adopted in the after-
math of the Civil War fundamentally altered our country’s
federal system. The provision at issue in this case, §1 of
the Fourteenth Amendment, provides, among other
things, that a State may not abridge “the privileges or
immunities of citizens of the United States” or deprive
“any person of life, liberty, or property, without due proc-
ess of law.”
Four years after the adoption of the Fourteenth
Amendment, this Court was asked to interpret the
Amendment’s reference to “the privileges or immunities of
citizens of the United States.” The Slaughter-House
Cases, supra, involved challenges to a Louisiana law per-
mitting the creation of a state-sanctioned monopoly on the
butchering of animals within the city of New Orleans.
Justice Samuel Miller’s opinion for the Court concluded
that the Privileges or Immunities Clause protects only
those rights “which owe their existence to the Federal
government, its National character, its Constitution, or its
laws.” Id., at 79. The Court held that other fundamental
rights—rights that predated the creation of the Federal
Government and that “the State governments were cre-
ated to establish and secure”—were not protected by the
Clause. Id., at 76.
In drawing a sharp distinction between the rights of
federal and state citizenship, the Court relied on two
principal arguments. First, the Court emphasized that
the Fourteenth Amendment’s Privileges or Immunities
Clause spoke of “the privileges or immunities of citizens of
the United States,” and the Court contrasted this phrasing
with the wording in the first sentence of the Fourteenth
Amendment and in the Privileges and Immunities Clause
7 Cite as: 561 U. S. ____ (2010)
Opinion of the Court
of Article IV, both of which refer to state citizenship.5
(Emphasis added.) Second, the Court stated that a con-
trary reading would “radically chang[e] the whole theory
of the relations of the State and Federal governments to
each other and of both these governments to the people,”
and the Court refused to conclude that such a change had
been made “in the absence of language which expresses
such a purpose too clearly to admit of doubt.” Id., at 78.
Finding the phrase “privileges or immunities of citizens of
the United States” lacking by this high standard, the
Court reasoned that the phrase must mean something
Under the …