When the Heller decision came down, it made a few things clear. One was that yes, the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms. Another was that common, popular firearms could not be banned. In the case of Heller, it was a handgun ban, but the Court made it very clear that other such bans were also an issue.
However, despite the fact that the case should have been a game-changer and completely undermined gun control efforts for the next century, it didn’t. Gun control efforts proceed, now with more vigor than in years prior.
Further, it seems some courts never got the memo.
A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld a county-wide ban on assault weapons and limits on magazine capacity. The three-judge panel rendered a unanimous opinion for the court, including the assent of Trump appointee Judge Amy Joan St. Eve.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit found that two Cook County, Illinois residents who sought to challenge these restrictions came “forward with no reason — much less a compelling one,” to revisit the court’s own precedent establishing such rules as constitutional.
A U.S. District Court judge dismissed the lawsuit last year, and the three-judge panel upheld that ruling on Thursday.
In 2006, Cook County enacted the Blair Holt Assault Weapons Ban, which fined residents up to $10,000 and allowed for six months imprisonment if they were found to possess an assault weapon or large-capacity magazine. Over a decade later, two county residents filed an action in federal court, after years of litigation at the state level, challenging the rules as unconstitutional.
The defendants could ask the judges to rehear the case or call for a full complement of Seventh Circuit judges to reconsider Thursday’s decision.
They, of course, declined.
Now, I’m not a lawyer, but I do believe the court is quite wrong on this one. You see, Heller found that a ban on an entire class of firearms, particularly ones popular for self-defense usage, was unconstitutional. So-called assault weapons definitely fall into this category, so what is the reasoning for upholding such a ban?
Well, the reasons are pretty simple. The Seventh Circuit just doesn’t give a damn.
The Supreme Court is the highest court in the land, to be sure, but that doesn’t do a whole lot of good if the lower courts don’t uphold the precedent set by the Court. If they continue to willfully ignore Heller, then the Supreme Courts existence becomes nothing more than legal theater.
Yet, what can we do? For those in Cook County, they’re kind of stuck. The Supreme Court has already ruled on this, haven’t they?
Not really. The problem with Heller appears to be that because it was a fairly broad ruling, there’s still a lot of interpretation to be done. The Seventh Circuit may simply feel that assault weapons don’t qualify under Heller. I’m quite sure they’ll continue to make that argument until the end of days. They’re wrong, but the problem is that they’re judges not gun people. How do they know what people actually use for self-defense?
The only real answer for this is for the Supreme Court to hear a specific case on these weapons and reach a similar ruling, thus negating this ruling.
Of course, the Court has only agreed to hear one case on the Second Amendment since the time of Heller and the McDonald decisions, and that was just this year, so who knows if that will happen.