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Supreme Court Won't Hear Assault Weapons Challenges

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on June 22, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In the wake of the most deadly mass shooting in America's history, the US Supreme Court has declined to hear new challenges brought against assault weapons bans out of New York and Connecticut. Those bans were put into place following the tragic Sandy Hook shooting.

It seems to be a predictable pattern. A mass shooting takes place and the courts, for better or worse, refuse to hear challenges.

Connecticut and New York

It's difficult to believe that it has already been two years since we heard the news that a mass shooting had taken the lives of 20 students and several educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. As numbed as the public had become to news of mass shootings, few persons were so jaded as to not be disturbed at some visceral level. The majority of the victims were children.

Connecticut politicians moved swiftly and efficiently. Working off the momentum of the tragedy, the governor of that state expanded already tight restrictions on high capacity rifles by adding even more weapon types to the list, and also making it illegal to purchase many types of ammo magazines. New York quickly followed suit. The laws got the support from the court upstairs.

States Fill in the Gap

Ever since the federal ban on assault weapons lapsed in 2004, the states have been filling in the gaps by passing legislative catch-ups. And since then, the assault ban sentiment on Capitol Hill has been decidedly muted. The silence has even included the nation's highest courts.

Highland Park and Heller

The principle legal rhetoric behind SCOTUS's refusal to hear any more assault weapons bans challenges stems from the now infamous 2008 SCOTUS case DC v. Heller, in which the Court determined that such weapons were consistent with "traditionally lawful uses" of handguns -- including, presumably, assault weapons. Rationally, the legal medium must fall between the line that was drawn in Heller and that ban that was drawn in Highland Park, another set of bans the court determined was not inconsistent with the seminal 2008 case.

Despite the recharged fervor against high capacity weapons, anti-gun activists can at least take comfort in the few states that uphold strict gun laws.

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