Despite the sweeping language of a 2008 Supreme Court ruling that struck down parts of the District of Columbia's strict gun-control law, the decision appears consistent with many of the policy options being discussed after the shootings in Newtown, Ct., says the New York Times. Legal experts say the decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, has been of mainly symbolic importance so far. There have been more than 500 challenges to gun laws and gun prosecutions since Heller was decided, and few of them have succeeded.
The courts have upheld federal laws banning gun ownership by people convicted of felonies and some misdemeanors, by illegal immigrants, and by drug addicts. They have upheld laws making it illegal to carry guns near schools or in post offices. They have upheld laws concerning unregistered weapons, and laws banning machine guns and sawed-off shotguns. Heller does not impose any major hurdles to many of the most common legislative proposals in the wake of the Newtown shootings, said Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, author of “Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America.” Among the responses that Heller allows, he said, are better background checks, enhanced mental health reporting, and a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips. A major possible exception to the trend was a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit striking down an Illinois law that banned carrying loaded guns in public.