On Monday the Supreme Court decided against hearing a challenge to two different statewide bans of various assault weapons that were passed in 2012. The horrifying December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., led to several states beefing up their gun control laws, including Connecticut and New York. California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland and Hawaii already banned certain semi-automatic weapons.
After the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando there has been renewed talk of more gun legislation with a momentum not seen since the Sandy Hook shooting.
Between 1994 and 2004 there was a federal ban on assault weapons, which is a slightly hazy category of semi-automatic firearms that have detachable magazines and other features. However, the ban expired under George W. Bush, and Congress has not successfully passed any subsequent federal legislation.
In 2008 and 2010 the Supreme Court decided two important gun cases. The first was DC v. Heller, which said that the Second Amendment applied to Washington, DC, and that its ban on home handguns was unconstitutionally harsh. The second was McDonald v. City of Chicago, which ruled that the Second Amendment to the Constitution does indeed apply to the states, as it protects an individual’s right to own a firearm.
However, in practice, McDonald does not magically mean that all guns are legal to own by any person over 18 or are legal to carry anywhere and at any time. This is what the late, seriously conservative Justice Antonin Scalia more or less wrote in Heller, so you’d better believe the more liberal judges were inclined to agree.
According to the court, the Second Amendment may protect gun rights to some extent, but the they are happy letting states and localities interpret that in ways that they see fit, and that includes upholding or refusing to hear challenges to various restrictions on firearm ownership.
On Monday the Senate plans to vote on four different gun control bills, none of which seems to have much chance of passing, not even the Republican “compromise” ones. This is in spite of the recent 15-hour filibuster by Democrats who were hoping to get legislation passed.