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December 7, 2015

SCOTUS Declines ‘Assault Weapons’ Ban Case

“Relegating the Second Amendment to a second-class right.”

Second Amendment rights continue to face legal challenges. The latest setback comes from the Supreme Court, which rejected a challenge to a ban on so-called “assault weapons.” Highland Park, Illinois, enacted a ban in 2013 based on the following criteria, as reported by The Hill: “any semi‐automatic gun that can accept a large‐capacity magazine and has one of five other features: a pistol grip without a stock; a folding, telescoping, or thumbhole stock; a grip for the non‐trigger hand; a barrel shroud; or a muzzle brake or compensator. Some weapons, such as the AR‐15 and AK‐47, are prohibited by name.” The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ban against a challenge from Arie Friedman and the Illinois State Rifle Association. And on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

In an unusual step, Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas voiced opposition to the Court’s move. Thomas wrote, “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.” To do so, he argued, gives blessing to a lower court decision that “eviscerates many of the protections recognized in Heller and McDonald.” For example, weapons in “common use” was key to the Court’s previous gun rulings, and it’s hard to argue that semiautomatic rifles don’t fit that description, even if they do have extra-scary features like pistol grips and folding stocks that have no effect on functionality.

“If a broad ban on firearms can be upheld based on conjecture that the public might feel safer (while being no safer at all), then the Second Amendment guarantees nothing,” Thomas wrote. He concluded that the Seventh Circuit is guilty of “relegating the Second Amendment to a second-class right,” and SCOTUS did nothing to stand for Rule of Law.

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