7th Circuit OKs Gun Bans
for the Illusion of Safety



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By Kurt Hofmann, April 29th 2015
JPFO writer contributor, © 2015.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that the ban of so-called "assault weapons" in Chicago suburb Highland Park is Constitutional. This being the largely Illinois-based 7th Circuit Court, that outcome is perhaps not surprising (although the 7th Circuit did in December, 2012 strike down Illinois' "no-issue" policy regarding defensive firearm carry permits).

The three-judge panel was not united in this decision. Judge Daniel Manion broke from Judge Frank Easterbrook's and Judge Ann Claire Williams' majority opinion in a rather sharply written dissent. From Newsmax:

Daniel Manion

But in his hard-hitting dissent, Judge Daniel A. Manion said the U.S. Constitution leaves it to individuals, not elected officials, to determine which guns do or don't offer the right degree of self-defense.

"To limit self-defense to only those methods acceptable to the government" creates an "enormous transfer of authority from the citizens of this country to the government — a result directly contrary to our constitution and to our political tradition," Manion wrote.

Ann Claire Williams

Indeed. The majority casually dismissed the Constitutional challenge to the ban on the grounds that because other firearms, including handguns, are not banned in Highland Park, that the Second Amendment is not violated, because private citizens have other options.. It is perhaps worth noting, by the way, that Highland Park did not have such a ban until 2013. At that time, in the wake of the above mentioned earlier 7th Circuit Court decision striking down the state's concealed carry ban, the state law hastily passed in response gave some municipalities a window of opportunity to pass such bans before the new state legislation preempted most local regulation of firearms. The municipal gun laws would then be "grandfathered" in, despite the preemption.

If Highland Park did not see a need for such a ban before 2013, what is it about the new heavily regulated system of concealed carry that suddenly made "assault weapons" such a menace? The answer, obviously, is "nothing."

Dave Workman

And if the decision itself is not surprising, some of the purported reasoning behind it is. As Seattle Gun Rights Examiner Dave Workman notes, the majority opinion justified the decision on the basis of a decidedly peculiar argument:

"If a ban on semi-automatic 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." The majority opinion was written by Judge Frank Easterbrook.

Frank Easterbrook

Note that the argument being made here is not that banning such firearms enhances public safety. That, Judge Easterbrook apparently decided (and probably good thinking on his part), would not be especially defensible, particularly in light of the city's lack of problems before the ban was put in place. Nope, instead, Easterbrook and Williams are claiming that the public's perception of safety is supposedly aided.

In other words, the citizens of Highland Park are to give up access to the most effective militia-capable firearms in order to cater to the irrational fears of those who believe that "assault weapons" are "weapons of war," without any purpose but to "kill as many people as possible, as quickly as possible," but who also believe that police (increasingly rarely referred to as "peace officers") have a perfectly legitimate reason to have them.

Benjamin Franklin is widely quoted as having said some variation of "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." How much stronger his contempt would have been for those willing to give up liberty for the illusion of safety.

A former paratrooper, Kurt Hofmann was paralyzed in a car accident in 2002. The helplessness inherent to confinement to a wheelchair prompted him to explore armed self-defense, only to discover that Illinois denies that right, inspiring him to become active in gun rights advocacy. He also writes the St. Louis Gun Rights Examiner column. Kurt Hofmann Archive.

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