Monday, 7 December 2015

Supreme Court Won’t Hear Challenge to Assault Weapons Ban in Chicago Suburb

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear a Second Amendment challenge to an Illinois ordinance that banned semiautomatic assault weapons and large-capacity magazines. As is their custom, the justices gave no reason for turning down the appeal in the case, Friedman v. City of Highland Park, No. 15-133, which comes at a time when the national debate on gun control has been reignited by terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.
Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia dissented, saying that lower courts have been ignoring Supreme Court precedents on Second Amendment rights.
The ordinance, enacted in 2013, banned some weapons by name, including AR-15s and AK-47s. More generally, it prohibited possession of what it called assault weapons, defining them as semiautomatic guns that can accept large-capacity magazines and have features like a grip for the nontrigger hand. Large-capacity magazines, the ordinance said, are those that can accept more than 10 rounds.
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In 2008, in District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court struck down a federal law that banned keeping handguns at home for self-defense, finding for the first time that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to bear arms. In 2010, the court extended the principle to state and local governments.
Since then, the court has turned away appeals in any number of Second Amendment challenges to gun control laws.
The ordinance, from Highland Park, Ill., in the Chicago suburbs, was challenged by the Illinois State Rifle Association and Dr. Arie S. Friedman, who at his home had kept guns and magazines for self-defense that were banned by the ordinance. The term “assault weapons,” they told the justices, “is an imaginary and pejorative category.”
The Illinois rifle group and Dr. Friedman urged the Supreme Court to address what they called “the lower courts’ massive resistance to Heller and their refusal to treat Second Amendment rights as deserving respect equal to other constitutional rights.”
A supporting brief filed by 24 states said the ordinance “bans many commonly used firearms and the standard capacity magazines for many popular firearms.”
In April, a divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in Chicago, upheld the Highland Park ordinance.
“A ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines might not prevent shootings in Highland Park (where they are already rare), but it may reduce the carnage if a mass shooting occurs,” Judge Frank H. Easterbrook wrote for the majority. In any event, he added, “if a ban on semiautomatic guns and large-capacity magazines reduces the perceived risk from a mass shooting, and makes the public feel safer as a result, that’s a substantial benefit.”
Judge Daniel A. Manion dissented. “By prohibiting a class of weapons commonly used throughout the country,” he wrote, “Highland Park’s ordinance infringes upon the rights of its citizens to keep weapons in their homes for the purpose of defending themselves, their families and their property.”

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