According to NBC News, the Supreme Court could make a decision as early as Tuesday on whether or not to hear a challenge to Highland Park, Illinois’ municipal assault weapons ban. If the court chooses to hear the case, and to overturn the local ban, it would also set a precedent that could prompt overturning similar bans in larger cities like nearby Chicago. It could also potentially undermine assault weapons bans in seven states: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.
Highland Park’s law was passed in 2013, shortly after the deadly Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. The law bans the sale, purchase, or possession of semi-automatic weapons that can hold more than 10 rounds in a single ammunition clip or magazine.
The Illinois State Rifle Association challenged the ban by arguing that the weapons are widely owned and that it isn’t unusual for people to have them. While true, that argument hardly addresses whether the ban is a good idea or not for protecting public safety.
A federal district judge and a federal appeals court upheld the law. The appeals court ruled 2 to 1 in favor of maintaining the law, with Judge Frank Easterbrook, a Ronald Reagan appointee, writing the majority opinion. Easterbrook argued:
Assault weapons with large-capacity magazines can fire more shots, faster, and thus can be more dangerous in the aggregate. Why else are they the weapons of choice in mass shootings?… 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.
If the Supreme Court decides to hear the case, it will be interesting to see if the conservative-leaning court will side with Reagan appointee Easterbrook in upholding the ban, or if they will take the gun lobby’s position and vote to overturn the law. Hopefully, the court will either refuse to consider the case, or if they do rule on it, they will uphold the ban and let gun sense prevail.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.