Anticipating a similar result in their case, Chicago lawmakers are looking at even more stringent regulations.
But the new regulations themselves are likely to themselves be the subject of lawsuits, a fact noted by the dissenting justices Monday. Already in Washington, Dick Heller, the plaintiff in the original case before the Supreme Court, has sued the city over its new laws.
Heller argues that the stringent restrictions violate the intent of the high court's decision. So far, a federal judge has upheld the limitations, but the case has been appealed.
Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, said his politically powerful group "will continue to work at every level to insure that defiant city councils and cynical politicians do not transform this constitutional victory into a practical defeat through Byzantine regulations and restrictions."
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an ardent proponent of gun control, said the ruling allows cities "to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and terrorists while at the same time respecting the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens."
New York does not ban guns, but restricts who can have them.
The court also was split between liberals and conservatives in its 5-4 ruling against a Christian student group that sought official recognition from the University of California's Hastings College of the Law.
The Christian Legal Society requires that voting members sign a statement of faith and regards "unrepentant participation in or advocacy of a sexually immoral lifestyle" as being inconsistent with that faith.
But Hastings said no recognized campus groups may exclude people due to religious belief or sexual orientation.
The high court upheld the lower court rulings saying the Christian group's First Amendment rights of association, free speech and free exercise were not violated by the college's decision.
"In requiring CLS — in common with all other student organizations — to choose between welcoming all students and forgoing the benefits of official recognition, we hold, Hastings did not transgress constitutional limitations," Ginsburg said in the court's majority opinion. "CLS, it bears emphasis, seeks not parity with other organizations, but a preferential exemption from Hastings' policy." Justice Anthony Kennedy joined the four liberals in the outcome.
Justice Samuel Alito wrote a strong dissent for the court's conservatives, saying the opinion was "a serious setback for freedom of expression in this country."
"Our proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom of express 'the thought that we hate,'" Alito said. "Today's decision rests on a very different principle: no freedom of expression that offends prevailing standards of political correctness in our country's institutions of higher learning."
In his final appearance on the bench, Stevens read aloud a brief letter to the other justices, after Roberts read one to Stevens. [Read 10 things you didn't know about John Paul Stevens.]
The 90-year-old justice pointed out how times had changed since he joined the court in 1975. Then, he said, he would have addressed his remarks to his brethren.
Now, with two women as justices, he called them his colleagues.