On Monday, the United States Supreme Court decided that it would not review the ability of state and local governments to ban semi-automatic assault weapons that have been used in recent deadly shootings. For now, states and cities will still be able to outlaw such weapons at their discretion.
The seven states of Maryland, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York all have bans and prohibitions put into place. A similar law is also enforced in Highland Park, IL, which is located near Chicago. A lower court from Highland Park recently upheld the ban.
Although some consider these prohibitions to be a violation of the Second Amendment, the majority of the SCOTUS Justices believe that no intervention is needed. However, not all of the Justices are in agreement.
Justice Clarence Thomas said, “These are categorical bans on firearms that millions of Americans commonly own for lawful purposes.”
While the Supreme Court made the ruling in the 2008 case of District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment provides the right for an individual to keep a weapon in their home, the court has largely avoided expanding this right.
Meanwhile, advocates of gun rights have opined that state and local governments have placed unreasonable restrictions on the Second Amendment. Despite this, the Supreme Court has not intervened. Many legal experts believe that the Justices of the Supreme Court are divided on this issue and that they are reluctant to take a firm stance.
With the inaction of America’s highest court, it is up to the lower courts to decide on the matter. This has given lower courts the authority on matters such as carrying a weapon outside of the home and what kind of weapons can be lawfully owned.
During his address on Sunday evening, President Barack Obama called on Congress to make it more difficult to obtain “powerful assault weapons”.
Highland Park Judge Frank Easterbrook believes that banning such firearms can reduce the damage that occurs in shootings. The judge wrote, “Why else are they the weapons of choice in mass shootings? It may reduce the carnage if a mass shooting occurs.”
Meanwhile, an appeals court in New York concluded that such bans in New York and Connecticut would continue to be upheld.
However, gun rights advocates and 24 states want SCOTUS to take action. These individuals have said that the banning of these weapons has violated the intent of the 2008 SCOTUS ruling. According to these people, the use of the term “assault weapons” is “anti-gun propaganda”.
Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia also want action to be taken.
Thomas wrote, “The overwhelming majority of citizens who own and use such rifles do so for lawful purposes, including self-defense and target shooting. Under our precedents, that is all that is needed for citizens to have a right under the Second Amendment to keep such weapons.”
For the past several months, the Justices of the court have been privately debating whether or not to take action against Highland Park. Ultimately, Justices Thomas and Scalia were not able to convince their fellow SCOTUS members to make a review. For now, the issue will be left alone.
There is no word as to whether or not the recent mass shooting in San Bernardino had an influence on the Justices’ decision.