By: Michael F. Kraemer, Esq.
Last year, the Supreme Court in the Bruen case adopted a different approach to evaluating laws restricting firearms in light of the Second Amendment. Before Bruen, five different U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals had ruled on the constitutionality of state assault weapons bans and all five ruled that such laws did not contravene the Second Amendment. Gun advocates argue that under the Bruen formulation, the result should be different. Has that been the case so far? Nope.
The gun lobby sued to enjoin the Illinois assault weapons ban and in February of this year, U.S. District Court Judge Virginia M. Kendall denied a request to enjoin the new law and found that the gun advocates were not likely to prevail on the merits. In March, the pro-gun forces brought suit in Delaware to block that state’s assault weapons ban. Judge Richard G. Andrews of the U.S. District Court in Delaware denied the motion for an injunction, also finding no likelihood of success on the merits. In April, the Illinois decision was appealed to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld Judge Kendall’s order.
If the Rhode Island General Assembly passes an assault weapons ban, a lawsuit will surely be filed seeking to enjoin the enforcement of the ban. But given Chief Judge John McConnell’s decision approving of the high capacity magazine ban enacted in 2022, the outcome of such a lawsuit, even under the Bruen analysis, is pretty easy to predict.
The bottom line: so far, the federal courts are having no difficulty finding that state assault weapons bans do not violate the Second Amendment. Next up will be Washington State, where the legislature just passed an assault weapons ban which Governor Jay Insley promptly signed.