Tuesday, December 8, 2015

U.S. Supreme Court declines to take up ban on assault weapons

     San Bernardino, California; Aurora, Colorado; Tucson, Arizona; Newton, Connecticut. Do you know what all these cities have in common? These are places where semi-automatic guns have been used to kill  massive amounts of people.

     To prevent these types of attacks on innocent civilians, states such as Maryland, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York have implemented similar gun bans on military-style rifles. However, many ban's, like California's, have loopholes. In the recent tragic San Bernardino incident, the two killers had rifles that were legally obtained. Even though most rifles are banned in California, the only exception is if a button mechanisms to release the ammunition magazines exists. 

     Yesterday, the Supreme Court announced that it would not take up a challenge to an assault weapon ban in a Chicago suburb, called Highland Park. This law, which was upheld by the lower courts bans the sale, purchase, and possession of semi-automatic firearms with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds of ammunition, or basically 10 bullets.

     Many pro-gun right's advocates have argued that their rights have been infringed on. Gun rights advocates say that gon-control laws violate enumerated second amendment rights. They are not alone. Both Justice Clarence Thoma and Antonin Scalia have openly dissented the majority opinion to not see the case. Justice Thomas has stated, “Because noncompliance with our Second Amendment precedents warrants this Court’s attention as much as any of our precedents, I would grant certiorari in this case. The arguments from the parties in the case reflect the deep divide nationwide between those who are pushing what they consider reasonable restrictions and others who think the lower courts are thumbing their nose at Supreme Court precedent by upholding certain restrictions". Thomas is referring to the District of Columbia v Heller case in which the court ruled, that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that firearm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.

So should we ban firearms?

During the 1994-2004 Federal assault ban, we do see a decrease in mass murders. The number of mass shootings since the ban has almost doubled. Indicating a ban on assault weapons was effective over a 10-year span of 1994-2004. Some might question why the spike near the year 2000 and that is because of an irregular mass shooting at a high school, that killed 12 and injured 21 others. 

 On the other hand, banning firearms might not be the solution as shown by the graph below: 

We see that in states, like Chicago and Washington D.C.,  with complete bans on firearms have actually shown some of the highest murder counts in the nation. We also see that in states with less gun control have fewer murders. One thing that really stuck out to me was that villages that required a loaded gun in each house, had reduced home invasion crime.

1) Do you believe there should be some gun control in the U.S.? If so, on all firearms or only assault weapons?
2)What do you think of the lower courts breaking a precedent set by the Supreme Court to allow gun control bans?


Christopher Griffis said...

It is interesting to see that the targets of mass shootings have risen over the decades. I think it would also be interesting to see the data through 2015 as there have been multiple mass shootings since 2010. To answer Dhruv's question, I definitely believe that there should be gun control in the US. It is because of the dysfunction of gun control that many of these mass shootings occur. However I also believe that the second amendment was made during a different time. A time when the US society was not as organized, a time when the people were afraid of another overthrow of government. In better terms, I believe the second amendment is outdated and should be viewed as so to make the proper adjustments.

Specifically regarding assault rifles, I think that there is no need for assault rifles in the home. Private individuals do not need an assault rifle in order to stop an intruder. No burglar can withstand a handgun so why is an assault rifle needed? Although some argue that they use these guns for hunting but no one needs a semi-automatic or even automatic rifle for a deer.

Guns are a very controversial topic as the general public are scared for there family. I do not need a gun now but if I was married and I had kids I think I would do or get anything to protect them. It is because of the idea that we want to protect our loved ones from harm that private individuals want guns. But assault rifles are not needed and ultimately cause more trouble then they are worth.

Nick Jadallah said...

I agree with Chris that U.S. policy regarding assault weapons should be reevaluated. However, I do want to take this opportunity to clarify what exactly a semi-automatic weapon is because people seem to be using "assault weapon" and "semi-automatic weapon" interchangeably, and this should not be the case. A semi-automatic firearm is one in which you pull the trigger once, and two things happen: 1- a single shot is fired
2-after the shot is fired, the cartridge is ejected, and the gun reloads itself automatically

That is all a semi-automatic firearm is. It is true that most assault weapons you can purchase in the U.S. are classified at semi-automatic, but that is simply because of the mechanism by which they operate. By contrast, an "automatic" firearm (illegal) is one that fires multiple rounds of ammunition as long as you hold down the trigger.
I would also like to point out that banning semi-automatic weapons would not be fair to the majority of people who use them legally-mainly hunters and sports shooters. For the most part, these people use hunting or sporting guns, many of which are semi-automatic, but very few of which would be considered "assault" weapons. Grant it, for deer hunting, like Chris mentioned, you don't NEED a semi-automatic rifle (and many deer hunters use bolt action, which is not semi-automatic, but rather a mechanism that requires the shooter to physically re-cock the gun before firing after each shot), but some hunters do prefer semi-automatic weapons. This is especially true when hunting for birds. While the pump-action Remington 870 is very common, there are many bird hunters who prefer semi-automatic. People who shoot for sport (e.g. trap or clays) also use semi-automatic rifles often. From a sporting perspective (and personal experience), it helps the shooter focus on shooting rather than reloading, which comes in handy when you simultaneously have two or three clays in the air that you must shoot in a short period of time. Pump action shotguns are fun in their own way, but I think it is fair to give shooters a choice, especially because the majority use firearms legally.
With all that said, I fully support enhanced background checks, licensing of firearms and a ban on high capacity magazines but banning the entire class of semi-automatic weapons in the U.S. is not something that I would fully support. It is not fair to the vast majority of people, like hunters and sports shooters, who use them legally.
That's about all I have to say. Mainly, I just wanted to clarify the term "semi-automatic".
Good post. Thanks

Daniel Jun said...

Let us not forget that the guns were ALTERED. There were modifications to the rifles. By California state law, the variety of rifle used in the shooting must not have a button release for the magazine; the magazine must only be removable by using a special tool, thus increasing the time it takes to reload. The shooters modified the guns to bypass the rifle reloading tool, making the rifles illegal. That's right. It is only at that point that the rifles themselves are illegal.

Also, here's a bit of a fact check. The guns were initially bought legally. Initially. And then one of the shooter's brothers gave him/her the guns. This fact doesn't really change anything, but I find it important to at least have all the facts on the table, rather than only the cherry-picked few.

Should we ban firearms? No, because that statement is too ridiculously broad. Should we, at the very least, restrict commercially sold firearms and heavily restrict the American population's access to such deadly weapons? Probably.

I'm a firm believer in "guns don't kill people; people with guns kill people," but at some point, anti-gun believers have to realize a complete ban is completely unfeasible because guns are permeated into the American culture and have been for literally centuries. In addition, second amendment supporters have to realize "hey, these guns make it really easy for people to kill others. Maybe we should limit them more."

Guns make violence so much easier to commit, but they can also act as the greatest deterrents of violence and crime. I, personally, believe education in ethics would be the best way to reduce shootings and crime in general. But what those ethics would be, and how and when to teach children said ethics, make my plan laughably impossible.

Rachael Howard said...

1) Do you believe there should be some gun control in the U.S.? If so, on all firearms or only assault weapons?
I think that there should be extreme gun control in the U.S on all firearms due to the recent events... I think these recent events have proven that a lot of people can not control themselves with the power a gun has. I also think that there is no real need for guns unless you maybe go hunting or feel the need to have a gun to protect you home. However studies have shown that people who have tried to defend themselves against home intruders have actually had their gun taken from them by the intruder and have been shot with there own gun... so not much protection there. Also I guess if hunting is something you do in your free time then I guess it makes sense for you to have a gun, however you should have to carry a permit when transporting it to your hunting grounds and it has to be disassembled at all times except for when you are using it. Maybe hunters should also have to notify the police when they are about to go on hunting trips if these "hunting trips" turn into loopholes of sorts. I also believe that the purchase of guns should be very limited, such as you can buy a gun strong enough to kill a bear but you cant buy a gun that is automatic or semi automatic, what I mean is strong guns okay fine, but you shouldn't be allowed to buy a gun where you can kill 20 people in a minute if you reload fast enough (if that makes sense) (Sorry this is a little opinionated and extreme, just kind of sick and tired of all the mass shootings as I am sure you guys are too)
2)What do you think of the lower courts breaking a precedent set by the Supreme Court to allow gun control bans?
I agree with their ruling. I think there should be more gun control especially with all the mass shootings that have been happening.

Elliot Quan said...

I'm with Daniel on the idea that education is the key, and that immediately, banning semi-auto weapons (or any guns in general) really won't do much since the US market is already flooded with them. The reason why many people are opposed to gun control is that they view it as a step towards disarming America completely (who knew). If an argument can be made against the semi-auto, one can be made against the cherished conventional handgun.

The immediate effects of banning assault weapons would not really lead to anything either. According to this source, there are at least (estimated) 3 million AR-15 style rifles (semi-automatic) somewhere in the country, and 300+ million guns in general. Irregardless of the method by which the gun fires, I think it can be agreed that banning whatever type of gun would still leave one gun for every single person in the US. Who cares whether the gun has 30 rounds or 5 - each bullet is one potential death. It's clear that gun owners are not willing to see their guns being liberated from their possession, and this will not change for a long time. So now, while we can call for increased gun control and restrictions and databases and sale laws, the reality is that the chances are slim due to the overwhelming cultural attachment to guns that has developed for centuries. Sandy Hook wasn't enough to motivate Congress, and this doesn't seem like an exception. I'd really hate to see the kind of event that would spur people to action and sever the attachment, but it doesn't look like much will change until then.

So, hypothetically, what if we somehow magically got gun control laws passed? If semi-autos were banned, if the Federal Assault Weapons Ban was renewed, you’d still have people selling weapons when they’re not supposed to, and 300 millions guns somewhere in America; it’s hard to make them all disappear, and the owners are still allowed to resell their guns if they possessed them before the ban (assuming it would not be changed from its original provisions). I don’t know what sort of gun law would make this problem better – I mean, sure, we could discourage potential killers from buying weapons that can kill, but I don’t know which law is harder to break – one against killing people or one against obtaining a gun?
I mean, the guy who bought the 4 weapons bought them legally and just gave them to his neighbor. What law is going to stop that? If he bought 4 handguns legally, you’d have the same result. If they were acquired illegally, well, there you go. Gun sales outlawed? We still have 300 million guns, good luck trying to account for all of them and don’t even think about trying to collect all of them (it cost Australia more than $500 million to buy back 600k guns). All in all, it just seems like too much effort for such little return considering how divided we are as a nation on this issue.
I mean, it’s nice to have laws and regulations, but some sliver of people undoubtedly break them regardless, and then people question why the laws aren’t stronger, which pisses off all of the law abiding citizens. I do find it interesting how the SC turned down the case considering its previous decisions (Heller) , but I cannot tell whether or not this will lead to meaningful change given the staunch opposition to such laws and decades of inaction. I don’t see a happy ending to this issue any time soon, so I guess we’ll stay tuned.


Ryan Swan said...

Personally, I believe that yes, there should be some regulations on firearms. This ban should only be on guns that are necessities for war. Some being automatic machine guns or any type of weapon that has the capability of unloading an entire magazine with just one pull of the trigger. I do think we should be allowed to have firearms in order to protect ourselves, but highly lethal weapons used by the actual U.S. military is a bit of an overkill and extremely unnecessary. A simple handgun is more than enough to protect yourself from potential dangers. As for the lower courts and their decisions to break precedents made by the Supreme Court, I find it more common than not. Furthermore, those involved with these cases regarding the lower courts obviously found some loop whole in the Supreme Court's decision which allowed for the breaking of said precedent. In some circumstances, breaking any precedent probably seemed necessary for any given decision, even one made by the Supreme Court. For said decision, it could not possibly account for every given circumstance. Which is why I believe these local courts had decent reasoning behind their rulings...at least I hope.

Louis Villa said...

Disregarding my beliefs about gun control, I think the Supreme court should have taken this case so that they could create modern precedent relating to gun control. The gun debate is often a point of contention between the parties and having a ruling might shift the focus away from gun control at least temporarily.