Weapons ban upheld: Supreme Court Assault Weapons Ban

Published: December 8, 2015

Weapons ban upheld: Supreme Court Assault Weapons Ban, The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear a Second Amendment challenge to a Chicago suburb’s ordinance that banned semiautomatic assault weapons and large-capacity magazines.

The decision not to hear the case has no precedential force, but was nonetheless part of a series of signals from the Supreme Court giving at least tacit approval to even quite strict gun control laws in states and localities that choose to enact them.

“The justices don’t reveal their reasons for denying review, but one thing is clear,” said Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. “The justices certainly aren’t eager to take up a Second Amendment case these days.”

“One has to wonder,” he said, “if the Supreme Court is having second thoughts about the Second Amendment.”

The court will sooner or later return to the subject of the scope of the Second Amendment right first recognized in 2008 in District of Columbia v. Heller, which struck down parts of an exceptionally strict local law that barred keeping guns in the home for self-defense. But the justices do not seem eager to do so even as the nation is in the midst of a sharp debate over gun control in the wake of shooting rampages in San Bernardino, Calif., and across the nation.

In dissent on Monday, Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Antonin Scalia, accused the court of abdicating its responsibility to enforce the constitutional right to keep and bear arms. (Justice Scalia wrote the majority opinion in the Heller case, which was decided by a 5 to 4 vote.)

“Roughly five million Americans own AR-style semiautomatic rifles,” Justice Thomas wrote, referring, he said, to “modern sporting rifles.”

“The overwhelming majority of citizens who own and use such rifles do so for lawful purposes, including self-defense and target shooting,” Justice Thomas wrote. “Under our precedents, that is all that is needed for citizens to have a right under the Second Amendment to keep such weapons.”

Chuck Michel, president of the California Rifle and Pistol Association, said the dissent made powerful points. “It is only a matter of time,” he said, “before the Supreme Court takes a case, sets things straight, and properly subjects this and similar unconstitutional laws to renewed challenge.”

Gun control advocates heard a different message. “The American people have had enough of gun violence and, with the exception of Justices Thomas and Scalia, in this case, the Supreme Court sided with them,” said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Monday’s case, Friedman v. City of Highland Park, No. 15-133, concerned an ordinance in Highland Park, Ill. It was, enacted in 2013.

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