Yesterday the United States Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals which upheld gun laws in New York and Connecticut which bans military assault style weapons, like the ones used in Sandy Hook in 2012, Santa Barbara a few months ago, and Orlando last week. The gun laws in question were enacted by New York and Connecticut in 2012 after the school shooting in Sandy Hook Connecticut which took the lives of 20 young children and 6 teachers. Gun rights advocates filed suit alleging that the prohibitions violated the 2nd Amendment and prior Supreme Court precedent which upheld the right of the public to own firearms for self protection.
The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers New York and Connecticut, found in favor of the states and upheld the laws which enacted gun prohibitions. The gun rights activists appealed to the United States Supreme Court. Yesterday, the Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal, without comment, which has the effect of upholding the ban on assault weapons. The decision keeps the prohibitions in New York and Connecticut, thought to be the most strict in the country, in place. This decision sends many signals about the Supreme Court’s attitude towards guns. First, the Court seems to be unwilling to get too involved in the public debate over guns. Second, it appears as if the Supreme Court will allow for the banning of assault-style weapons.
The Court seems to see the laws enacted by states as more of a political decision and does not want to get involved in decisions made by legislatures and politicians. Finally, it seems as if the Supreme Court has made it pretty clear that the right to own a firearm is not absolute and will uphold reasonable restrictions. And when it comes to what is reasonable seems to be something that the Court is likely to leave to the individual states to decide. This decision is not surprising. Last December the Supreme Court did the same thing involving a similar ordinance in Highland Park, Illinois, which banned assault weapons. They refused to hear the appeal of a 7th Circuit Court of Appeals decision which upheld the ordinance. In 2008, in District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court upheld the right to own firearms inside one’s home for self defense. But the decision only applied to federal regulations. In 2012, in McDonald v. City of Chicago, the Supreme Court held that Heller applied to the states. Since then the Supreme Court has refused to overturn any statute which established restrictions on the right to own a firearm. The closest they have come to doing this was in March of this year when they overturned a Massachusetts decision which held that stun guns were not protected by the 2nd Amendment and returned the matter to the lower courts for further proceedings.
With the public debate surrounding trying to ban assault weapons, advocates who are opposed to such matters frequently point to the Second Amendment as a basis for opposing such efforts. This case, along with the Highland Park case, make it pretty clear that the Supreme Court will not stop the banning of assault weapons, so this argument seems to have been removed from the debate.
James Dimeas is an award winning Chicago criminal defense attorney and author with more than 23 years of experience aggressively representing his clients against gun charges. If you have a gun case in Illinois, contact me in Chicago (312-229-5500), DuPage and Kane (630-504-2096) or Lake (847-696-6458) for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal options.
Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Challenge to Connecticut, New York Weapons Ban, Robert Barnes, The Washington Post, June 20, 2016.
District of Columbia v. Heller, 128 S.Ct. 2783 (2008).
McDonald v. City of Chicago, 130 S.Ct. 3020 (2010).