Supreme Court Considers Hearing Challenges to Firearms Laws
In the weeks after the deadly mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, the Supreme Court is prepared to act on two gun control cases. One case involves a Connecticut ban on semiautomatic assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, while another is a Maine man’s challenge to a federal law banning him from possessing firearms or ammunition because of a prior domestic violence conviction.
In December 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case challenging an assault weapons law in Highland Park dealing with semiautomatic firearms with high-capacity magazines. The law prohibited the manufacturing, purchase, sale, or possession of semiautomatic firearms that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition and that have certain other features, such as a grip for the non-trigger hand. The statute specifically lists various weapons that are banned, including the AK-47 and AR-15.
The 7th Circuit upheld the ban, noting that residents have other options for self-defense, and that the ban helps people feel safer, since assault rifles are often the weapon of choice in mass shootings. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case; however, Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented, noting that the vast majority of assault rifle owners use them for lawful purposes.
The Connecticut statute is similar to Highland Park’s law. It bans more than 100 types of firearms, along with magazines that are capable of holding more than ten rounds of ammunition. The bill was passed four months after the Newtown elementary school shooting of December 2012. The Court did not take up the Illinois case; and, in a similar fashion, the Court also declined to hear the case regarding the Connecticut law, as described by a June 20th article in The New York Times.
Federal courts have held that assault weapons bans like Connecticut’s and Highland Park’s are not in conflict with the Supreme Court’s 2008 ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, which allowed the possession of handguns at home for self-defense. In the Heller opinion, Justice Scalia wrote that though the Court overturned D.C.’s ban, it was not upholding “a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose."
The Maine case deals with a federal law barring those who have been convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense from possessing a firearm or ammunition. In 2004, Maine resident Stephen Voisine pled guilty to an assault charge against his girlfriend. Five years later, he was investigated after shooting a bald eagle. Voisine turned over a firearm to authorities during the investigation and was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm.
Justice Thomas, at oral arguments, broke a ten-year silence on the bench to ask about the Second Amendment implications of the case and inquired whether there were any other situations in which a misdemeanor violation leads to the revocation of a constitutional right.
If you have been charged with a weapons violation, please contact the compassionate Naperville criminal defense attorneys at Law Office of Glenn M. Sowa, LLC to schedule your initial consultation today.