Despite creating no legal precedent, the Supreme Court of the United States seemed to send a strong signal this week regarding its position on the rights of municipalities to enact strict gun control laws. By a vote of 7-2, the nation’s high court elected not to hear the challenge to a local ordinance restricting the sale of certain firearms in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park. The decision to turn down the case has no bearing on the outcome of future cases, but many believe it is further proof of the courts hesitance to expand the protections of the right to bear arms contained in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The Gun Ban
The denied appeal was a challenge filed against Highland Park’s ban on weapons determined to be “assault weapons,” including AR-15 rifles, and magazines with a capacity of greater than 10 rounds. The ordinance was enacted in 2013 as part of a growing concern over public access to certain firearms in the wake of highly-publicized mass shootings in Connecticut and Colorado. Advocates for gun rights quickly challenged the local law on the basis that it violated the Second Amendment’s promised right to bear arms.
Seventh Circuit Ruling
The challenge was filed in federal court, and eventually reached the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. In its ruling this past April, the appellate court determined that weapons which present a clear danger and those not commonly used for reasonable self-defense do not necessarily fall under the protections afforded by the Second Amendment. Gun rights proponents, however, disagree, noting that many of the weapons banned by the Highland Park law are among the most popular choices for hunters and recreational shooters.
While the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the appeal leaves the Seventh Circuit’s ruling intact, two justices strongly disagreed with the high court’s decision. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a lengthy dissent, with the support of Justice Antonin Scalia, both indicating they wanted to hear the case and strike down the ban. The ban, Justice Thomas wrote, “is highly suspect because it broadly prohibits common semi-automatic firearms used for lawful purposes” by millions of Americans. “The overwhelming majority of citizens who own and use such rifles,” he continued, “do so for lawful purposes, including self-defense and target shooting.”
This case is far from the last gun rights case presented to the Supreme Court, but so far, this version of the court has been hesitant to address Second Amendment rights, and certainly has not done so in a wide-reaching or definitive manner. Many, including Justice Thomas, are quickly becoming frustrated at the Court’s reluctance to take on such an important issue.
If you are facing charges related to the illegal sale or possession of firearms, contact an experienced Joliet criminal defense attorney. We will review your case and help you take the necessary steps toward protecting your rights and your future. Call 815-740-4025 to schedule a free initial consultation today at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba.