WASHINGTON (CNN) - Setting the stage for a dramatic battle over gun rights, the Supreme Court on Wednesday accepted an appeal challenging the ability of state and local governments to enforce strict limits on handguns and other weapons.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/CRIME/09/30/scotus.state.guns/art.handgun.gi.jpg.jpg caption="The question before the courts will be whether Second Amendment protections apply to local gun ordinances."]
The high court returned from its summer recess, meeting in private to consider thousands of pending appeals that have piled up the past three months.
The Second Amendment case from Chicago was the most anticipated of the petitions, and oral arguments will be held sometime early next year. Nine other cases were also accepted for review.
At issue is whether the constitutional "right of the people to keep and bear arms" applies to local gun control ordinances, or only to federal restrictions. The basic question has remained unanswered for decades, and gives the conservative majority on the high court another chance to allow individuals expanded weapon ownership rights.
The appeal was filed by a community activist in Chicago who sought a handgun for protection from gangs.
The justices last year affirmed an individual right to possess handguns, tossing out restrictive laws in Washington.
Sound off: Should states and cities be allowed to pass gun control laws or is that stepping on a constitutional right?