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Debate Continues Over US Gun Laws

Legal challenges and debate continue a week after the US Supreme Court's ruling that Americans have a right to own a gun for self defense anywhere they live

New local gun laws follow a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that Americans' Constitutional right to gun ownership applies nationwide.

Legal challenges and debate continue a week after the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that Americans have a right to own a gun for self defense anywhere they live. The Court said the Constitutional right to gun ownership applies nationwide, in response to a challenge of a gun ban in the Midwestern U.S. state of Illinois.

But the court also said the ruling limits - but does not eliminate - the ability of states to devise solutions to social problems that, in the decision's words, "suit local needs and values."

So gun rights supporters and those who favor more restrictions on firearms are vowing to fight on.

While U.S. gun control laws are changing, the debate over whether fewer restrictions will make crime-plagued communities safer remains much the same.

Just days after the Supreme Court said Chicago's 28-year-old ban on handgun ownership was unconstitutional, the city's lawmakers - reeling from weeks of gun violence - passed a tough new set of laws to control the use, sale and transport of firearms.

Annette Holt's son was murdered on a city bus. She fears more guns on the streets will make things worse.

"This is a slap in the face to all of us who have lost children to gun violence," said Holt.

The high court ruling says the right to have a handgun for self defense is a fundamental right under the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and applies to state and local jurisdictions. But Chicago Mayor Richard Daley is countering the court's decision by pushing for new restrictions on guns which would still comply with Second Amendment rights.

"We are a country of laws and we should never be a country of guns," said Daley.

The Supreme Court ruling was welcome news for these gun owners in Virginia. They gathered at this sports bar outside Washington, DC, to celebrate another victory. Ending a 15-year ban, a new state law allows concealed weapons permit holders to carry guns into restaurants that serve alcohol, as long as they do not drink.

"There are almost a quarter of a million concealed handgun permit holders in Virginia alone and this will allow them again to have a choice when they go out to eat," said Phillip Van Cleave, President of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a gun rights group. "They can still open carry. If they wish however, they can conceal carry now if they wish as well."

Van Cleave says his group will continue its fight to repeal other gun laws, such as a measure that prevents Virginians from buying more than one handgun every 30 days. He says the repeal of total gun bans in places like Chicago and Washington, DC, will lead to fewer restrictions on gun owners in other places.

"If [cities or states] decide they are going to regulate the carry of guns… [our group will fight to ensure] they are forced to have a equitable system where any law-abiding citizen who is not a criminal can get that permission to carry a concealed gun easily," added VanCleave.

Gun control advocates acknowledge there will be more legal challenges by gun rights groups, but they remain optimistic most gun laws in the U.S. will be upheld.