Gun Control

SCOTUS Refuses to Hear 2nd Amendment 'Assault Weapons' Case, Clarence Thomas Files Sharp Dissent

Justice Thomas faults his colleagues for "relegating the Second Amendment to a second-class right."

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Credit: C-SPAN

The U.S. Supreme Court refused today to hear a major Second Amendment case out of Illinois which asked whether a city's ban on "assault weapons" violates the U.S. Constitution. By refusing to hear the case, the Court has allowed a lower court decision upholding the gun ban to stand. Writing in dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Antonin Scalia, faulted the other justices for giving their blessings to a lower court decision "that flouts two of our Second Amendment precedents" and "eviscerates many of the protections recognized in Heller and McDonald."

At issue in Friedman v. City of Highland Park is that Illinois city's ban on the sale and possession of "assault weapons" and of gun magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. The city's regulations were upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, which deemed such gun bans permissible under the Second Amendment. A majority of the Supreme Court today allowed that 7th Circuit decision to survive. Only Justices Thomas and Scalia spoke out in opposition.

"I would grant certiorari to prevent the Seventh Circuit from relegating the Second Amendment to a second-class right," Thomas wrote today. In his view, the city's regulation is "highly suspect because it broadly prohibits common semiautomatic firearms used for lawful purposes…. 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."

Thomas was also dismissive of the 7th Circuit's claim that the "assault weapons" ban "may increase the public's sense of safety," which that court deemed "a substantial benefit" of the city's actions. But as Thomas pointed out, "If a broad ban on firearms can be upheld based on conjecture that the public might feel safer (while being no safer at all), then the Second Amendment guarantees nothing."

Justice Thomas' dissent from denial of certiorari in Friedman v. Highland Park is available here.