THE Supreme Court has declined to review an appeal of an Illinois ordinance banning assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, marking a victory for gun control advocates.
The decision on Monday, Dec. 7, comes after a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California and nearly a month after such an incident in Paris, which have fueled fierce arguments over gun regulation in the United States.
In 2013, the City of Highland Park in Illinois issued an ordinance that bans the sale, purchase, or possession of a number of semi-automatic weapons, including the AR-15 and AK-47. It also bans magazines containing over 10 rounds of bullets, as well as semiautomatic guns with a grip for the nontrigger hand.
The measure was challenged by the Illinois State Rifle Association and Dr. Arie Friedman, a pediatrician who kept guns and magazines that were banned by the ordinance at home for self-defense. They told the justices that the term “assault weapons” is “an imaginary and pejorative category,” according to The New York Times.
Two conservatives on the nine-member court, Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia dissented, saying the Supreme Court should have heard the case to prevent the appeals court “from relegating the Second Amendment to a second-class right.”
A key component to the argument was a 2008 Supreme Court decision that said the Second Amendment of the Constitution gives an individual the right to possess a handgun for self-defense. The ruling, however, also said there could be restrictions for “dangerous and unusual weapons.”
“The overwhelming majority of citizens who own and use such rifles do so for lawful purposes, including self-defense and target shooting,” Thomas wrote in a six-page dissent. “Under our precedents, that is all that is needed for citizens to have a right under the Second Amendment to keep such weapons.”
A supporting brief filed by 24 states urging the Court to strike down the ordinance said the weapons banned are commonly used and protected by state laws that prohibit local communities from restricting them.
Decision previously upheld
In April, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago upheld the ordinance in a divided vote.
“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 Easterbrook wrote on behalf of the majority. 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 Manion wrote the dissent.
“By prohibiting a class of weapons commonly used throughout the country, 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,” he wrote.
Highland Park lawyers defended the ban, citing it was issued after a series of mass shootings across the United States, including the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, where 26 people were killed. They also noted that seven states, including California and New York, have similar laws.
Attorneys for the Rifle Association said that in the seven years since the landmark gun ruling in 2008, “the lower courts have assiduously worked to sap it of any real meaning. They have upheld severe restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms that would be unthinkable in the context of any other constitutional right,” NBC News reported.
The Supreme Court last heard a major gun case in 2010, when it ruled in McDonald v. City of Chicago that its ruling in 2008 applied to the states. n