Good News for Gun Control: SCOTUS Refuses to Interfere With State Assault-Weapons Bans

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U.S. Gun Sales Reach Record Levels In 2012
While Congress may never revive the ban on assault weapons like the AR-15, states can do so, and the Supreme Court won't stop them.Photo: Joe Raedle/2012 Getty Images

It was not a Supreme Court decision but instead a simple, opinion-less refusal to hear an appeal of a lower-court decision. And it probably wouldn’t have gotten a lot of attention had it not come so soon after the Orlando massacre.

But the Court’s refusal to hear an appeal of a circuit-court decision against plaintiffs alleging that Connecticut’s ban on certain assault weapons — including the one used in Orlando, an AR-15 — will get attention all right. And it will make it clear that, despite its 2008 decision to recognize in the Second Amendment an individual right to bear arms for self-protection in District of Columbia v. Heller, it will give broad leeway to states that justify regulation of that right in order to preserve public safety. Connecticut, after all, passed its assault-weapons ban shortly after the Sandy Hook massacre, which also involved an AR-15.

In an earlier refusal to entertain a similar case from Illinois, justices Thomas and Scalia dissented on the grounds that the use of any weapon for self-protection made its possession protected under the Second Amendment. Scalia, of course, has since died, and Thomas did not bother to register a complaint today. Even as national legislation is stymied by the power of the gun lobby, there’s still hope for reasonable gun-safety laws in some states. SCOTUS will apparently stay out of the way.