Have the Justices Gone Gun-Shy?

8 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Gun-control group happy with court’s assault-ban decision.

The US Supreme Court handed gun control advocates a modest victory on Monday, deciding not to hear a challenge from gun rights activists to a Chicago suburb’s ordinance banning assault weapons. The Supreme Court gave an apparent green light Monday to lawmakers who want to restrict the sale of guns such as the rapid-fire weapons that have been used in the recent wave of mass shootings from Paris to San Bernardino.

The ordinance from the city of Highland Park, Ill., passed in 2013, bans various semi-automatic weapons (it also bans some weapons by name, including AR-15s and AK-47s) as well as magazines holding more than 10 rounds of bullets. Five days after the San Bernardino mass shooting, the justices left in place a lower court ruling that found local governments have latitude in deciding how to regulate firearms. In dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas said the high court, by refusing to consider a challenge to that law, was “relegating the 2nd Amendment to a second-class right.” The court’s decision was not a formal ruling — the justices simply decided not to consider an appeal by gun-rights advocates.

The nation’s highest court has repeatedly turned away challenges to gun restrictions since two landmark rulings that spelled out the right to a handgun to defend one’s own home. The high court’s action comes at a time of renewed public debate and fear over the use of military-style assault weapons in mass shootings in recent weeks. In October, the federal appeals court in New York largely upheld similar laws in Connecticut and New York, among a handful of states that ban semi-automatic weapons. Advocates of bans on military-style weapons had pointed to mass shootings before this year and argued that rapid-fire rifles and handguns posed a special danger to public safety. The Second Amendment to the US Constitution protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms, but legal arguments over its scope have persisted for decades.

Judge Frank Easterbrook concluded that there is a “substantial benefit” to the Highland Park ordinance if it makes the public feel less at risk from a mass shooting. Two University of Rochester students, including one who is a talented pianist and the other a star football player, were lured into a drug den and beaten and one of them was shot over a weekend-long ordeal, according to police and classmates.

Opponents of gun control say, to the contrary, that the shootings demonstrated the limited effectiveness of such measures, since France and California already strictly regulate gun sales. The two college seniors — Nicholas Kollias, who is featured online performing Chopin melodies, and Ani Okeke-Ewo — were being treated Monday at a Rochester Hospital as police continued their investigation. In 2013, when state lawmakers reacted to the court ruling by making it legal to carry a gun, they gave cities around the state 10 days to come up with local restrictions on assault weapons, or forfeit their right to do so. Police declined to comment on the case details, but classmates of the duo said they were lured to the house by young women, and then jumped by men inside. Lawyers for Highland Park, in defense of the ordinance, noted that it was enacted “following a series of tragic mass shootings across the nation,” including the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, where a gunman killed 20 first graders and six adults.

Citing FBI statistics, The Christian Science Monitor’s Harry Bruinius previously reported that only 248 of the nearly 12,000 murders committed in the United States in 2014 were perpetrated with rifles of any sort. Highland Park police Chief Paul Shafer said his department has confiscated weapons under the ban three times, and in all three cases police discovered the guns while responding to unrelated actions involving the guns’ owners. A 2004 study led by the University of Pennsylvania criminologist Christopher Koper examining the federal assault weapons ban – which was implemented in 1994 but allowed to expire by a bitterly-divided Congress ten years later – concluded that the bans success was “mixed.” Mr.

He described how area criminals try to lure victims into buildings with promises of women-filled parties. “When they find out you got money or something, they befriend you,” he said. “They tell you lies to try to get you.” Marquis Green, 26, who just moved in a few doors down from the property, said he and his girlfriend were asleep Sunday night when a blast woke them up, likely from the police raid. “It sounded like a bomb,” he said outside his house Monday afternoon. “I thought we were under attack.” He and his girlfriend jumped out of bed and went outside, where he saw police blocking off the surrounding streets. “Everyone was up on the street,” Green said, saying his neighbors told him of police vehicles rushing to the property.

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