Highland Park Assault Weapons Ban Upheld By U.S. Supreme Court

The United States Supreme Court announced that it will not entertain a challenge to the City of Highland Park’s ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, thus allowing the 7th Circuit Court opinion supporting the ordinance to remain standing


City of Highland Park

On Monday, December 7, 2015, the United States Supreme Court announced that it will not entertain a challenge to the City of Highland Park’s ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, thus allowing the 7th Circuit Court opinion supporting the ordinance to remain standing. This Supreme Court’s determination is a resounding victory for the City of Highland Park and the safety of its residents.

Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering stated: “We are pleased that the 7th Circuit decision to uphold Highland Park’s right to take reasonable steps to protect our citizens from particularly dangerous firearms has been preserved. Banning assault weapons and large capacity magazines is a common sense step to reducing gun violence and protecting our children, our law enforcement and our communities from potential mass violence and grief.”

On June 24, 2013, the City passed an ordinance prohibiting the possession, sale, or manufacture of certain military-style weapons and large capacity magazines. The City later amended the ordinance to create exceptions for qualified retired law enforcement officers and for owners of curios or relics that are safely stored.

The Highland Park ordinance followed the passage of a controversial Illinois state law that allowed gun owners to legally carry concealed weapons. It forbade the suburb’s residents from possessing assault weapons with large capacity magazines, such as AK-47s or AR-15s. Violators of the ordinance would face up to six months in jail and $1,000 in fines, CityLab reported.

On December 12, 2013, Plaintiffs Arie S. Friedman MD and the Illinois State Rifle Association filed a complaint claiming that the ordinance, on its face, violated the Second Amendment. Both the City and the Plaintiffs filed cross motions for summary judgment. On September 18, 2014, Judge John Darrah (United States District Court - Northern District of Illinois) ruled that the City of Highland Park’s ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines does not violate the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the decision of the court, and therefore the constitutionality of the ban, on April 27, 2015.

The City's Corporation Counsel, Steven M. Elrod of Holland & Knight LLP drafted the ordinance, and supervised the litigation defense strategy. However, to save legal fees for the City, an arrangement was made through the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence to engage the Perkins Coie law firm on a pro bono basis to represent the City. Chris Wilson, an accomplished federal court litigator, and Managing Partner of the Chicago Office of Perkins Coie, argued the case before the 7th Circuit.

According to Elrod, the 7th Circuit accepted the City's central argument that the banned weapons are "dangerous and unusual" and therefore not protected under the Second Amendment. The Court also recognized that the City created a fair balance by adopting an ordinance that serves to protect the safety of its residents while not completely banning all types of weapons. Further, the Court stated that "laws similar to Highland Park's reduce the share of gun crimes involving assault weapons."

From the majority opinion of Judge Frank H. Easterbrook of the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th District, the ruling stated, "But assault weapons with large‐capacity magazines can fire more shots, faster, and thus can be more dangerous in aggregate. Why else are they the weapons of choice in mass shootings? A ban on assault weapons and large‐capacity magazines might not prevent shootings in Highland Park (where they are already rare), but it may reduce the carnage if a mass shooting occurs."

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