WASHINGTON – One of the first results of the Supreme Court's decision Thursday to overturn Washington, D.C.'s gun ban is likely be a legal onslaught by the National Rifle Association, which is gearing up for a nationwide campaign to make sure the court's decision is enforced.
NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre told FOX News moments after the court struck down the 32-year-old ban on loaded weapons inside the homes of residents in the nation's capital that his group is targeting other localities that have blanket prohibitions on gun ownership.
"It's a great day," LaPierre said. "We're going to make sure this freedom is carried out.
LaPierre said that the first round of lawsuits will be in the suburbs of Chicago and San Francisco, where bans are in place. The NRA is going to see to it that "every American has equal access to guns," he said.
"The fact that it's an individual right, individuals all over the country have to get access to it. It cannot be walled off by the elite. So this is the opening salvo of a step-by-step process providing relief," he said.
The court, in a 5-4 decision, ruled that the Second Amendment grants an individual, not just a "well-regulated militia," the right to bear arms. The ruling reinforced the rights of marksman, hunters and others, even in crowded or high-crime cities, to keep a gun in his or her home. The long-anticipated decision was the high court's first explicit ruling on the Second Amendment in 127 years.
La Pierre likened the ruling to those that have upheld freedom of speech and the freedom to vote.
"You can't say you can vote in some parts of the country but not in others," he said. "Individual rights means individuals everywhere, and the NRA will not rest until individuals everywhere can exercise this freedom."
Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which favors restrictions on firearms, said the decision has set new parameters by reducing legal extremes — a ban inside the home on one side and unfettered access to firearms on the other. But it allows for reasonable restrictions.
"You can deal with middle-ground restrictions. ... We can enact common-sense measures to make it safe," he said, including banning assault weapons and closing a loophole that allows easier purchasing of weapons at gun shows.
The decision also made strange bedfellows of some Republicans and Democrats who frequently are on opposite sides on other issues.
Liberal Democratic Sens. Patrick Leahy and Russ Feingold both praised the court's ruling. So did more centrist Democrat Sen. Jon Tester of Montana. Tester stood alongside conservative Republican Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Orrin Hatch at a brief news conference outside the court that sits across from the Capitol.
"The Supreme Court has recognized the personal right to bear arms, guaranteed in the Second Amendment of the Constitution, and expressly held for the first time that our Bill of Rights includes this right among its guarantees of individual liberty and freedom. That is a good thing," said Leahy, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman.
"I am very pleased the Supreme Court finally recognized that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to bear arms. This is an important decision for millions of law-abiding gun owners. Public safety must be ensured without depriving our citizens of their constitutional rights," Feingold, of Wisconsin, said.
"This is a great day for the country, for the Constitution, for the people to affirm the fact that we have a right to keep and bear arms, regardless of where you live, whether it's in rural Montana where I come from, or whether it's in Washington, D.C.," Tester said.
Hutchison, of Texas, led the effort to pen an amicus brief signed 300 lawmakers and submit it to the court. She called it "a clear opinion, and from this day forward the people of our country will have the right in any jurisdiction in America to protect themselves and their families in their homes, and that was our goal."
Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, called the ruling "a resounding victory for the American people and sets a strong precedent that the rights and liberties provided in the Constitution may be regulated but cannot be extinguished by the law."
But the the court's ruling was cause for disappointment and alarm in other circles.
D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty said the current in-home gun ban law will stand for 21 days until his administration creates emergency laws to comply with the court's ruling. But he said he does it reluctantly.
"As mayor of the District of Columbia, I think I speak for the near unanimous population here in this city when we say we're disappointed, we wish the ruling had gone the other way, but that we stand here and we respect the court's power to make this ruling and their deliberation that got them to this point," Fenty said.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said that her experience as a former mayor of San Francisco leads her to believe the court's decision will open the door to more, not less street violence. She also criticized the conservative members of the court, who she said did not follow the legal principle of "stare decisis," the Latin term for using earlier court decisions to strongly guide new opinions.
"I remember both (Chief) Justice (John) Roberts and Justice (Samuel) Alito sitting in front of us and indicating how they would respect 'stare decisis' and precedent — and this decision takes down 70 years of precedent," Feinstein said, referring to the two justices appointed by President Bush. "I think it opens this nation to a dramatic lack of safety."
She added: "I happen to believe that this is now going to open the door to litigation against every gun safety law that states have passed — assault weapons bans, trigger locks and all the rest of it."
Feinstein said the court's decision, which also struck down a D.C. trigger lock requirement, is also faulty because those regulations prevent guns from being used by thieves or others who do not own the weapon.