The Supreme Court refused to hear two cases appealing lower court decisions that upheld state laws banning the ownership of semi-automatic rifles on Monday, continuing a trend dating back to December 2015 when the High Court decided not to take up a petitioner’s challenge to a similar law enacted by a municipality in Illinois.
The two cases appealed assault weapons bans in Connecticut and New York state on the grounds that both violate the Second Amendment’s guarantee of a “right of the people to keep and bear Arms”, which the Court previously ruled in 2008 entitles individuals to own a gun for the purpose of property protection.
In 2010, the Court affirmed its 2008 decision, and applied the earlier ruling to the states — effectively saying that states could not enact laws that restrict gun ownership which is deemed necessary for personal security.
The lawsuits rejected Monday were brought by gun rights advocacy groups, businesses and individual owners, who pointed to the popularity of semi-automatic rifles — 8 million of which were produced domestically or imported to the U.S. between 1990 and 2012.
In the December 2015 case which was refused a hearing, Justice Clarence Thomas dissented with the following argument:
“Roughly five million Americans own AR-style semiautomatic rifles. The overwhelming majority of citizens who own and use such rifles do so for lawful purposes, including self-defense and target shooting. Under our precedent, that is all that is needed for citizens to have a right under the Second Amendment to keep such weapons.”
Since the federal assault weapons ban — enacted during President Bill Clinton’s tenure — expired 12 years ago, state and local governments have passed their own gun control laws to stem what is perceived by some to be a mass shooting epidemic in America.
Pro-gun advocates, however, counter that there is limited evidence to deduce that less guns will curtail senseless violence, other than raw probability theory.
Moreover, Supreme Court petitioners’ brief in the Connecticut lawsuit, Shew v. Malloy, points to the fallacy of that specific state statute.
“Connecticut dubs a semiautomatic firearm that possesses one of (several) features an ‘assault weapon’, but that is nothing more than argument advanced by a political slogan in the guise of definition,” the petition read. “In truth, the odd assortment of firearms Connecticut calls ‘assault weapons’ are mechanically identical to any other semiautomatic firearm — arms that . . . are exceedingly common and fully protected by the Second Amendment.”
In 2013, both Connecticut and New York passed state laws restricting sale and possession of semiautomatic weapons in the wake of the Newtown, CT, elementary school shooting in December 2012.
Currently, California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Hawaii and Washington, D.C., have similar statutes limiting the legal use of semi-automatic weapons.
[Reuters] [NBC News] [New York Times] [Photo courtesy returnofkings.com]