News & Politics

SCOTUS Rejects Challenge to Illinois City Assault Weapons Ban

On Monday, the Supreme Court rejected a challenge to an “assault weapons” ban in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park. The ban includes “assault weapons” and rifles with large-capacity magazines. The ban was enacted in 2013, and will remain in effect.

Justices Thomas and Scalia dissented, and said the court should have taken the case:

Thomas wrote their dissent and said the court should have granted review to prevent the appeals court “from relegating the Second Amendment to a second-class right”:

Thomas wrote a six-page dissent in which he said that in the wake of recent pro-gun rights rulings by the conservative-leaning high court, several lower courts “have upheld categorical bans on firearms that millions of Americans commonly own for lawful purposes.”

The Highland Park ordinance bans guns such as AR-15s and AK-47s, along with semi-automatic weapons that can take a magazine holding more than 10 bullets, also known as high-capacity magazines:

In rejecting a challenge to the law, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals said “assault weapons with large-capacity magazines can fire more shots, faster, and thus can be more dangerous in the aggregate. Why else are they the weapons of choice in mass shootings?”

The plaintiffs in the case were gun owner Arie Friedman and the Illinois State Rifle Association. Attorneys for 24 states urged the court to hear the case.

Central to the SCOTUS rejection was the 2008 Supreme Court’s Heller decision that re-affirmed that the Second Amendment articulates the right of an individual to own a firearm. However, the court also ruled that states can restrict “dangerous and unusual weapons.”

Other states and localities have similar bans, including California, Connecticut, Hawaii, New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Chicago and surrounding cities.

The 2nd Court of Appeals upheld Connecticut and New York laws in October:

These weapons are disproportionately used in crime, and particularly in criminal mass shootings. … They are also disproportionately used to kill law enforcement officers.

That statement is not true, however. According to a 2013 report from the FBI, 27 officers died that year as a result of a felonious death. Of those:

[O]ffenders used firearms to kill 26 of the 27 victim officers. Of these 26 officers, 18 were slain with handguns, five with rifles, and three with shotguns. One officer was killed with a vehicle used as a weapon.

So, not “disproportionate.”

The Illinois Rifle Association responded:

The lower courts have assiduously worked to sap [the Second Amendment] of any real meaning. They have upheld severe restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms that would be unthinkable in the context of any other constitutional right.