Supreme Court (Again) Punts on the Second Amendment, Leaves Voters to Carry the Ball
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit that upheld a Chicago-area “assault weapons” ban against a Second Amendment challenge. This was the second time this year that the Supreme Court refused to hear a Second Amendment case, thereby allowing a broad gun control law to stand. As in that previous case, the court’s decision drew a strong rebuke from Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.
The Seventh Circuit case was Friedman v. Highland Park. As our analysis noted, the majority’s reasoning was unusually strained. For example, they suggested that even if the ban’s infringement of Second Amendment rights had no beneficial effect on safety whatsoever, it could still be justified by the false sense of security it might impart to local residents. A dissenting judge wrote, “Both the ordinance and this court’s opinion upholding it are directly at odds with the central holdings of [the Supreme Court’s decisions in] Heller and McDonald.”
Justice Scalia – author of Heller – chastised his colleagues for refusing to take the case. He was joined in dissent by Justice Clarence Thomas. “[N]oncompliance with our Second Amendment precedents,” they argued, “warrants this Court’s attention as much as any of our precedents.”
Scalia elaborated on how the lower courts have ignored the Supreme Court’s prior Second Amendment decisions in upholding bans on highly-popular rifles like the AR-15. “The question under Heller is not whether citizens have adequate alternatives available for self-defense,” he wrote. “Rather, Heller asks whether the law bans types of firearms commonly used for a lawful purpose—regardless of whether alternatives exist.”
“Roughly five million Americans own AR-style semiautomatic rifles,” Scalia explained. Moreover, 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,” he concluded, “that is all that is needed for citizens to have a right under the Second Amendment to keep such weapons.”
For now, the Supreme Court at large has seemingly abdicated its duty to protect Americans’ fundamental Second Amendment rights. Meanwhile, anti-gun politicians like Hillary Clinton are increasingly bold in promoting their prohibitionist agenda.
You don’t have a vote at the Supreme Court, but you will have one in the 2016 presidential election. Scalia warned that if the views of Highland Park and the Seventh Circuit prevail, “then the Second Amendment guarantees nothing.” When it comes to your vote for president, it should therefore mean everything.