American Rifleman - July 2014 - 16

OFFICIAL JOURNAL

SPECIAL REPORT

political report
By Chris W. Cox, NRA-ILA Executive Director

A Freedom Fighter to Never Forget:
Otis McDonald (1933-2014)

H

istory books are written by the
winners and, if we're successful at
protecting the right to keep and
bear arms for future generations, the civil
rights chapters of the history books that
future generations will read will tell the
story of Otis McDonald. The longtime
Chicago resident, who passed away in
April, was the lead plaintiff in McDonald
v. City of Chicago, one of the most
important Second Amendment cases
ever decided by the Supreme Court.
McDonald, born to Louisiana sharecroppers in 1933, was an Army veteran,

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a father of eight and a grandfather. He
didn't finish high school, but he worked
hard, earned a college degree and retired
after a 32-year career at the University of
Chicago. As an African-American climbing the professional ladder in the University's building engineering department,
he learned the value of perseverance.
That lesson paid dividends in
McDonald's legal battle against the
Chicago political machine's decades-long
suppression of the right of law-abiding

Americans to keep and bear handguns for
protection. McDonald filed his challenge
to Chicago's handgun ban in 2008, after
the Supreme Court issued its decision in
District of Columbia v. Heller, which struck
down the District's handgun ban and its
ban on having a firearm assembled into
functional condition within the home.
The Heller decision also prohibited Congress and federal territories from imposing
laws like those it overturned in the District.
However, it didn't apply to gun control laws
imposed by states or local jurisdictions
within them. The decision benefitted the
half million residents of the nation's capital,
but McDonald and other residents of his
neighborhood were still helpless against
robbers, home invaders and other lowlifes
that were preying on good Americans who
had been rendered defenseless by a law
that gun control supporters had tried to get
imposed nationwide.
McDonald edged closer to action
as his once-peaceful South Chicago
neighborhood began to deteriorate at
the hands of drug dealers, burglars and
street thugs. He made his decision to
challenge Chicago's handgun ban after
three punks blocked his car and threatened him. "I was not going to back down
from a situation because of fear. ... I'm
not built like that," he said.
McDonald understood the heavy price
of freedom, and he knew that Chicago's
handgun ban amounted to a modernday version of the 18th and 19th centuries'
"slave codes" and "black codes" that
prohibited African-Americans from being
armed. "There was a wrong done a long
time ago that dates back to slavery time,"
he said. "I could feel the spirit of those
people running through me as I sat in
the Supreme Court."
McDonald also knew that the Heller
decision had not invented a "right to keep
and bear arms" out of thin air, as claimed
by gun control supporters. One of the
earliest Supreme Court cases to consider

the meaning of the Second Amendment
had also involved African-Americans
possessing firearms for protection. In U.S.
v. Cruikshank, decided in 1876, the high
court made clear that the Second Amendment did not create an individual right to
keep and bear arms, but rather protected
it against federal interference.
In 1939, in U.S. v. Miller, the Court
recognized that Americans have a right
to arms that have "some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency
of a well regulated militia," that are "part
of the ordinary military equipment," or
that the use of which "could contribute
to the common defense."
The Court cited both of these earlier
decisions in its Heller ruling.
In McDonald v. Chicago, the Court
extended the Second Amendment's protection of the right to arms through the
Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment, which provides [that] 'No State
shall make or enforce any law which shall
abridge the privileges or immunities 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 adoption of the 14th Amendment was due in part to efforts by some
states to disarm newly freed AfricanAmericans after the Civil War. More than
140 years later, an African-American of
great courage gave the nation's highest
court the opportunity to apply the
14th Amendment to advance one of its
original goals, benefitting all Americans.
The greatest tribute that we could
give to McDonald is to make sure that his
achievement stands in perpetuity, and
that the right to arms remains secure for
future generations of Americans. Let that
be our pledge, as Election Day 2014 nears.

NRA-ILA: (800) 392-8683 * NRA-ILA website: www.nraila.org * View this column online at www.nrapublications.org

16 J

ULY

2014

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American Rifleman - July 2014

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Rifleman - July 2014

Contents
American Rifleman - July 2014 - Cover1
American Rifleman - July 2014 - Cover2
American Rifleman - July 2014 - 1
American Rifleman - July 2014 - Contents
American Rifleman - July 2014 - 3
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