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Jun 20 2016

State Gun Ban Stands

The US Supreme Court dealt a blow to the gun lobby and the NRA by declining to hear a challenge to Connecticut and New York laws that bans military style semi-automatic weapons, their parts and large capacity magazines. These laws were passed in 2012 after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Without comment, the Supreme Court noted in an order that it wouldn’t hear the case, known as Shew v. Malloy, which sought to undo an earlier ruling that upheld the bulk of Connecticut’s state ban on assault weapons, as well as a similar one passed in New York.

Among other prohibitions, the bans criminalize possession of a wide range of semi-automatic firearms and large-capacity magazines. An appeals court ruled in October that those provisions do not violate the Second Amendment.

Notably, no justices disagreed publicly with the court’s decision not to get involved in the dispute.

But as Charlie Pierce notes, we still have a long way to go

In 2008, in District of Columbia v. Heller, a sharply divided Court ruled 5-4 that an individual right to bear arms existed under the Constitution. Since then, however, it has allowed state and localities to fashion their own gun control laws. First, last December, the Court refused to hear a Second Amendment challenge to a ban on semiautomatic assault weapons and large-capacity magazines enacted in Highland Park, Illinois. (Justice Clarence Thomas and the late Antonin Scalia went up the draperies over this.)

Monday’s ruling is of a piece with that one, and it makes clear why the latest bleating from Wayne LaPierre is emphasizing what he calls “national carry reciprocity,” because it’s pretty plain that even back when it was at full strength, there was a majority on the Court that believed that the Heller ruling was not absolute, and that local governments were free to enact sensible restrictions that would pass muster at the Court.

At the federal district court level, the decision handed down in favor of the state restrictions went out of its way to put paid to almost all the familiar propaganda tropes that likely will come rising like swamp beasts during Monday evening’s debates. Judge Alfred Covello was conspicuously unimpressed with the purely ludicrous idea that, if you don’t know precisely what an “assault weapon is,” you shouldn’t involve yourself with the issue of weapons that can kill 49 people at a sitting. [..]

I, for one, am cool with the state banning grenade launchers.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals went a bit further on this subject in its refusal to overturn the Connecticut law. Judge Jose Cabranes pointed out that the argument against restrictions because they will not stop every crime every time is, well, ludicrous.

The legislation is also specifically targeted to prevent mass shootings like that in Newtown, in which the shooter used a semiautomatic assault weapon. Plaintiffs complain that mass shootings are “particularly rare events” and thus, even if successful, the legislation will have a “minimal impact” on most crime. That may be so. But gun‐control legislation “need not strike at all evils at the same time” to be constitutional.

These two arguments—the definitional quibble and the nobody-can-do-anything shrug—have had quite a workout on the airwaves since the events in Orlando last weekend. In court, however, they seem to have lost a little of their steam.