In a hopeful sign, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to consider a case arguing that the assault weapon ban instituted by Chicago suburb Highland Park was unconstitutional. Refusing to consider the case means that the legal situation is clear cut, in effect confirming that the assault weapon ban ordinance under consideration is in full compliance with the U.S. constitution and other applicable U.S. law.
What this means in practical terms is that the 2013 ordinance passed by the city of Highland Park will remain in place. The Highland Park ban applies to a variety of military-style semi-automatic weapons, including guns such as the AR-15 and AK-47, as well as to magazines that hold over 10 bullets.
Details on the Supreme Court refusing to hear assault weapon ban case
The vote by the Justices was 7 to 2, with two conservatives on the nine-member court, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, arguing they should have gone ahead ad considered the case.
Justice Thomas penned a six-page dissent, arguing that despite several recent pro-gun rights rulings by the high court, a number of lower courts “have upheld categorical bans on firearms that millions of Americans commonly own for lawful purposes.”
For context, the second amendment of the Constitution guarantees all citizens the right to bear arms, but there is a longstanding legal debate over the scope of the second amendment and reasonable limits to gun ownership (such as over age of 18, barring felons from gun ownership, etc).
Thomas went on in his dissent to point out that semi-automatic rifles are very popular in America, with nearly all owners using them for lawful purposes, and wrote: “Under our precedents, that is all that is needed for citizens to have a right under the Second Amendment to keep such weapons,” he said.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also rejected the challenge to Highland Park’s ordinance this spring. Not surprisingly, extreme right-winger Thomas argued that the Supreme Court should have heard the appeal of that ruling so as to prevent the appeals court “from relegating the Second Amendment to a second-class right.
Of interest, the plaintiffs in the losing case were gun owner Dr. Arie Friedman and the Illinois State Rifle Association. Political analysts highlight that the National Rifle Association lobbying group and 24 U.S. states with conservative governments in power urged the court to take the time to hear the case.
Legal analysts note that the Supreme Court has not decided to take on a major gun case in five years now. The last notable gun control case was the 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller case, where the court held for the first time that the Second Amendment guaranteed an individual right to bear arms. That said, the ruling only narrowly applied only to firearms in the home for self-defense purposes. In the case McDonald v. City of Chicago in 2010, the court expanded the ruling to the states.
In litigating in front of the Supreme Court while defending the assault weapon ban, attorneys for Highland Park pointed out the law was enacted “following a series of tragic mass shootings across the nation” including the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in which 26 people were killed by a mentally deranged shooter.
The lawyers also pointed out that that seven states, including California and New York, have similar laws banning assault weapons.
In historical background, a national assault weapons ban expired in 2004 when the Congress failed to renew it, with too many gun-loving Republicans adamantly fighting all gun control measures no matter the clear evidence of the benefit of the law. That federal law had barred the manufacture and sale of semi-automatic guns with military-style features and all magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
Gun control is a hot topic after San Bernardino terrorist attack
The topic of control has come to the fore again after the San Bernardino shooting last week. Both gun control activists and gun supporters have been working hard in a gigantic PR battle to convince the American public that their side is right.
On a related note, according to Google Search data, searches for “gun control” topped those for “gun shop” (in all states except for Tennessee and Kentucky) following the news of the San Bernardino mass shooting.
President Barack Obama also noted in his speech Sunday night that the terrorists who shot and killed 14 people in San Bernardino had a large stockpile assault weapons and bullets. President Obama called for Congress to act on new federal limits on dangerous assault weapons.