Gun Ban Upheld, Cites Feelings For Reason

scary-guns

In a specious argument against gun rights that should give every Second Amendment supporter pause for what it means for their right to keep and bear arms, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that a Chicago-area gun and magazine ban could stand because they “may increase the public’s sense of safety.”

The 2-1 decision by a three-judge panel to uphold the ban came in the case of Friedman v. Highland Park filed in 2013 that sought to overturn a city ordinance banning “assault weapons or large capacity magazines (those that can accept more than ten rounds).”

Highland Park, a Chicago suburb, hastily enacted a municipal ordinance regulating or banning the possession of “assault weapons” so the restrictions would be “grandfathered” before the state’s 2013 concealed carry law preempted home-rule authority to regulate firearms to effect.

According to the majority, “A ban on assault weapons won’t eliminate gun violence in Highland Park, but it may reduce overall dangerousness of crime that does occur ….”

In addition, the majority suggested that even if the ban’s intrusion on the Second Amendment right of law-abiding Americans to use firearms for hunting, shooting and self-defense, government could still justify the bans on the “sense of security” (feelings) of the public.

The majority wrote:

“[I]f it has no other effect”…”Highland Park’s ordinance may increase the public’s sense of safety. Mass shootings are rare, but they are highly salient, and people tend to overestimate the likelihood of salient events.”

“If a ban on semiautomatic guns and large-capacity magazines reduces the perceived risk from a mass shooting, and makes the public feel safer as a result, that’s a substantial benefit…”

This reasoning justified the bans even though the majority admitted that “assault weapons” can be beneficial for self-defense because they are lighter and more accurate than other firearms and can be more effective as defense weapons by householders.

Despite this observation, the majority tossed aside their logic and returned to the municipal interest in reducing the “perceived risk” that the public might feel about the possession of rifles and high capacity clips in private hands.

“If a ban on semiautomatic guns and large-capacity magazines reduces the perceived risk from a mass shooting, and makes the public feel safer as a result, that’s a substantial benefit…”

In his dissenting opinion, Judge Daniel Anthony Manion said the majority opinion was

“…at odds with the central holdings in Heller and McDonald: that the Second Amendment protects a personal right to keep arms for lawful purposes, most notably for self-defense within the home”…and that it is up to individuals to “make the ultimate decision for what constitutes the most effective means of defending one’s home, family, and property.”

Judge Manion added that when it comes to fundamental rights, “the government recognizes these rights; it does not confer them” and that the majority refused to recognize either the right at stake or Highland Park’s violation of it.