Page last updated at 07:51 GMT, Saturday, 28 June 2008 08:51 UK

US handgun ban challenge spreads

A Colt .45 semi-automatic pistol (file image)
The lawsuits say a ban on handguns violates the Second Amendment

A powerful pro-gun lobby group in the United States has filed legal challenges to handgun bans in San Francisco and Chicago.

The lawsuits come a day after the US Supreme Court ruled that a ban on the private possession of handguns in Washington DC was unconstitutional.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) says it wants similar bans in other states and cities overturned as well.

San Francisco's mayor says he plans to fight the NRA challenge.

The NRA lawsuit in San Francisco challenges the city's handgun ban in public housing; while in Chicago it challenges a ruling that makes it illegal to possess or sell handguns in the city.

"In Washington DC, or in any state, whether you live in the housing projects or a high end suburb, you have the right to defend yourself and your family at home," said Chris Cox, from the NRA.

"These laws all deny that right."


The NRA is joined in the San Francisco suit by a gay man living in a government-owned housing development who says he needs a gun to protect himself from potential hate crimes.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said the city would "vigorously fight the NRA" and said the ban was good for public safety.

"Is there anyone out there who really believes that we need more guns in public housing? I can't for the life of me sit back and roll over on this. We will absolutely defend the rights of the housing authority," Mr Newsom said.

The Supreme Court's ruling says that the constitution "protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defence within the home".

The ruling enshrines for the first time the individual right to own guns and limits efforts to reduce their role in American life.

"The Supreme Court's decision was very encouraging, but it is just a start," NRA lawyer C D Michel said.

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