Constitution Daily

Smart conversation from the National Constitution Center

Supreme Court denies assault weapons ban challenge

December 7, 2015 by NCC Staff

 

On Monday morning, the United States Supreme Court denied a potentially significant case on the ability of some Americans to own assault weapons.

Guns_twitterThe case of Friedman v. City of Highland Park has been listed in recent months for consideration by the nine Supreme Court Justices in private conference. It takes a minimum for four Justices to agree to hear an appeal before the full Court during its current term.

Without announcing the vote count in private conference today, the Supreme Court declined to accept the appeal from Dr. Arie Friedman and the Illinois State Rifle Association. They believed the suburban Illinois city violated their Second Amendment rights when it passed the ownership ban on various semi-automatic weapons, as well as a ban on ammunition clips that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

Link: Read Thomas’ Dissent

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas issued a written dissent after the denial, joined by Justice Antonin Scalia.

“The Court’s refusal to review a decision that flouts two of our Second Amendment precedents stands in marked contrast to the Court’s willingness to summarily reverse courts that disregard our other constitutional decisions,” Thomas said. “There is no basis for a different result when our Second Amendment precedents are at stake.”

Back in April 2015, a divided the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled in favor of the Highland Park weapons ban. In the 2-1 decision, Judge Frank Easterbrook said that the issue of a national right to own specific weapons was best left to the Supreme Court.

Two landmark rulings, District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago, set recent Supreme Court precedents on gun ownership in very general terms.

Link: Interpreting the Second Amendment In Our Interactive Constitution

Heller and McDonald set limits on the regulation of firearms; but within those limits, they leave matters open. The best way to evaluate the relation among assault weapons, crime, and self‐defense is through the political process and scholarly debate, not by parsing ambiguous passages in the Supreme Court’s opinions,” said Easterbrook in April 2015.

Seventh Circuit Appeals Judge Daniel Manion disagreed with Easterbrook in a strongly worded dissent. Limiting gun ownership restricts self-defense and represents an "enormous transfer of authority from the citizens of this country to the government - a result directly contrary to our Constitution and to our political tradition," he wrote.

In their appeal to the Supreme Court, the attorneys for Friedman wanted the Court to spell out some more details on its Second Amendment jurisprudence.

“The Seventh Circuit upheld bans on commonly possessed firearms and magazines that clearly are unconstitutional under Heller, and it did so by applying a newly minted three-part test, all three parts of which stand in direct conflict with. Enough is enough,” their brief said.

Highland Park petitioned the Supreme Court to deny the appeal. “The City of Highland Park’s ordinance bans only highly dangerous weapons that have been used in a series of mass shooting events, and it does not violate the Second Amendment,” it claims. “Restrictions on assault weapons and large capacity magazines have been repeatedly held to be in harmony with this Court’s decisions in Heller and McDonald and do not impose an unconstitutional burden on the rights secured by the Second Amendment.”

Recent Stories on Constitution Daily

Constitution Check: If a particular gun is widely popular, does that put it under the Second Amendment?

Constitution Check: Are gun rights withering away?

150 years ago today: The United States formally outlaws slavery
 

Sign up for our email newsletter