In the relatively recent Supreme Court decisionMcDonald v. Chicago (2010), the Court ruled that general bans on gun ownership were unconstitutional – or laws that had the effect of general bans, like in Chicago, which had a law that said all handguns had to be registered but then provided no mechanism to register guns. This case came up because an old man who lived in a dangerous neighborhood wanted to buy a handgun for self-protection for when his house was broken into – his perfectly legal rifle was just too unwieldy for the purpose. Interestingly, after the ruling, there appears to have been no effect on the homicide rate in Chicago, which is following the country-wide trend of continuing decline – less than half the homicide rate in 2014 than it was in 1974.
In a different decision, the Court also said the 2nd Amendment does not preclude gun control laws. Per Scalia in District of Columbia v. Heller: “Like most rights, the 2nd Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld...[and] the Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places…or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” So when we speak of gun control, we need to be more specific. If we’re talking about tighter controls on gun ownership in line of what Scalia was ok with, it doesn’t seem the 2nd Amendment is relevant (despite its symbolic value for both the gun lobby and gun control advocates). If we’re talking about community-wide bans, then it is relevant.