The Supreme Court declined to take up a challenge to a Chicago suburb's ban on assault weapons Monday, a move that will encourage gun-control advocates and could frustrate supporters of gun rights.
The city of Highland Park, Illinois, passed the ban in 2013 following a series of mass shooting incidents around the country. The law prohibits the sale, purchase and possession of semi-automatic firearms with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Antonin Scalia, dissented from the denial of the case. Thomas wrote that several Courts of Appeals have upheld "categorical bans on firearms that millions of Americans commonly own for lawful purposes."
"Because noncompliance with our Second Amendment precedents warrants this Court's attention as much as any of our precedents, I would grant certiorari in this case," Thomas wrote. The arguments from the parties in the case reflect the deep divide nationwide between those who are pushing what they consider reasonable restrictions and others who think the lower courts are thumbing their nose at Supreme Court precedent by upholding certain restrictions.
This isn’t entirely shocking. The courts have given supporters of the Second Amendment landmark victories on the issue of gun rights since the 2008 Heller case, which confirmed an American citizen’s right to own firearms. That related to federal enclaves, 2010’s McDonald v. Chicago applied that standard to the states. Since then, an Obama judicial appointee struck down a Chicago ordinance that would have banned gun sales within the city limits in 2014. Also, in that same year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that California’s “good cause” provision within their carry permit process was unconstitutional. On top of that, in August of 2014, another Californian federal judge ruled that the state’s 10-day waiting period was unconstitutional.
The point is that there is a consensus: that there is an individual right to own a firearm that’s protected by the Second Amendment. Moreover, as liberals often cite, "the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited,” which is what Justice Scalia wrote when he delivered the opinion of the Court during the Heller case. Yes, some gun control measures can be constitutional. Some states, California, New York, and Connecticut, already have assault weapons bans, which don’t seem to be creating havoc with lower level courts, which usually serves as the impetus for the Supreme Court to step in and resolve the legal question at hand.
In a previous post, I wrote that our victories in court have proven to be a double-edged sword. Yes, gun rights have expanded, but the consensus surrounding that fact has prevented any other opinions that might have furthered that right. There’s no need at present. There’s no pressing or split court decisions regarding these legal questions. For now, it seems the Court is allowing the legislatures to steer the ship, as what should happen in any representative democracy.
I strongly disagree with so-called assault weapons bans. At the same time, conservatives should be wary of acting like liberals when it comes to using courts to facilitate sweeping changes that should come from the halls of the legislature. For now, yes, we’re winning. You could make the argument that we’ve won. Yet, maybe it’s time to put more emphasis on changing laws through the legislature than by lawsuits. Republicans control 66 of the 99 legislatures in the country–the most ever. We occupy two-thirds of the governors’ mansions–and have the most state legislators in office since 1920. We have a good foundation for successful Second Amendment advocacy.