Highland Park, Illinois, banned assault rifles for nearly a decade before Monday’s mass shooting.
The ban was challenged and the case made its way to the Supreme Court, which declined to hear it.
In a dissenting opinion, Judge Clarence Thomas wrote that an “overwhelming majority” legally use such weapons.
Nearly a decade before the deadly Monday mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Illinoiskilling six and injuring dozens, the Chicago suburb banned assault rifles such as AR-15s and AK-47s.
That 2013 ban was quickly challenged and the case made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ultimately declined to hear it and instead upheld a lower court’s ruling in favor of the ordinance.
But at the time, Conservative judge Clarence Thomas — who joined the nation’s highest court in 1991 — opposed Highland Park’s ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, writing in a dissenting opinion that the “overwhelming majority” who use such weapons use them legally.
In Thomas’s dissent, filed in December 2015 and joined by the late Judge Antonin Scalia, he called assault weapons “modern sporting rifles” and referred to the Second Amendment.
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“The ordinance criminalizes modern sporting rifles (for example, AR-style semi-automatic rifles), which many Americans own for legal purposes such as self-defense, hunting and target practice,” the dissent read.
Thomas considered the city’s ban “highly suspicious because it broadly prohibits common semi-automatic firearms used for lawful purposes.”
“Approximately five million Americans own AR-style semi-automatic rifles,” the dissent, who added, “The vast majority of citizens who own and use such guns do so for lawful purposes, including self-defense and target practice.”
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld Highland Park’s assault weapons ban after a local physician and the Illinois State Rifle Association sued the city.
†[A]assault weapons with large-capacity magazines can fire more shots, faster, so can be more dangerous overall. Why else are they the weapons of choice in mass shootings?” court of appeal wrote: in its opinion of April 2015.
The court added: “A ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines may not prevent shootings in Highland Park (where they are already rare), but it could reduce the carnage if mass shootings occur.”
Authorities have recovered a “powerful gun” after Monday’s mass shooting in Highland Park, which comes on the heels of massacres in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York.
It was not yet clear where the weapon came from, but Democratic Highlands mayor Nancy Rotering, who signed the ordinance in 2013 banning assault weapons, said the pistol used in the shooting was “legally obtained.”
A suspect in the shooting was arrested Monday after an hour-long manhunt, the FBI said.
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