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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

7th Circuit Upholds City's Assault Weapon Ban

Hot off the virtual presses is the Seventh Circuit's decision upholding the City of Highland Park's assault weapon ban in Friedman v. Highland Park, (7th Cir. April 27, 2015).  

The City of Highland Park, Illinois adopted an ordinance prohibiting the possession of assault weapons or large capacity magazines (those that can accept more than 10 rounds). A City resident who owned a banned rifle and several large-capacity magazines before the ordinance took effect sued the City, along with the Illinois State Rifle Association, claiming that the ordinance violated the Second Amendment, as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago.  The City defended its ordinance by arguing that weapons with large-capacity magazines are "dangerous and unusual" under Heller.  

The Seventh Circuit first held that Heller does not purport to define the full scope of the Second Amendment, nor does it "imperil every law regulating firearms." Second, the Seventh Circuit posed the question as follows:  
Whether a regulation bans weapons that were common at the time of ratification or those that have some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia.
The guns and magazines banned by Highland Park were not common in 1791.  Moreover, although some of the weapons prohibited by the ordinance are commonly used for military and police functions, the Court held that states (and local governments) should be allowed to decide when civilians can possess military grade weapons.  Since Highland Park did not ban other types of weapons (i.e., handguns and most long guns), the ordinance still leaves residents with adequate means of self-defense.  The Court also found persuasive studies submitted by Highland Park that a ban on assault weapons reduces the overall dangerousness of crime, and could increase the public's sense of safety.  Based on these factors, the Court upheld Highland Park's ordinance.

The Court’s opinion leaves the door open for future experimentation with local firearms regulations. In McDonald, the Supreme Court advised that “‘[s]tate and local experimentation with reasonable firearms regulations will continue under the Second Amendment.’” Accordingly, the Seventh Circuit concluded in this case that “McDonald circumscribes the scope of permissible experimentation by state and local governments, but it does not foreclose all possibility of experimentation.”

Judge Manion dissented.  In his view, assault rifles and large capacity magazines, while admittedly dangerous, are also an effective method of defending one's home and family. Based on his reading of Heller and McDonald, and application of strict scrutiny to the ordinance, the City's ban violates the Second Amendment.

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf and Dan Bolin, Ancel Glink


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