For Release: Monday, December 1, 2003
National Rifle Association had Challenged California’s Assault Weapons Ban on Second Amendment Grounds
Today the U.S. Supreme Court denied review in a suit challenging the constitutionality under the Second Amendment of California’s strict ban on assault weapons. The 1999 assault weapons ban at issue in Silveira was adopted by the California legislature in response to the gun industry’s evasion of the state’s original 1988 ban. The 1999 California law is the model for legislation currently pending in Congress–sponsored by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Representatives Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) and John Conyers (D-MI) to renew and strengthen the 1994 federal assault weapons ban, which will expire on September 13, 2004, without federal action.
In Silveira v. Lockyer, the Supreme Court let stand a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that there is no individual right under the Second Amendment to possess firearms. The ruling is the second time in two years that the Supreme Court has declined to revisit its long-held position that the Second Amendment applies only to participation in a well-regulated militia. In response to today’s Supreme Court action, VPC Litigation Director and Legislative Counsel Mathew Nosanchuk states:
“Today’s Supreme Court action is a victory for public safety and security and a defeat for the National Rifle Association and the gun industry. Contrary to NRA and gun industry assertions, there is no `right’ to own a semiautomatic, military-style assault weapon. The Ninth Circuit ruling makes clear once again that contrary to the gun lobby’s bumper-sticker mentality, it is completely constitutional to ban specific categories of firearms. The threat posed by assault weapons is clear. FBI data show that from 1998 through 2001, one in five law enforcement officers slain in the line of duty was killed with an assault weapon. Other bans that the Supreme Court has let stand include municipal bans on handguns, and the 1986 federal ban on fully automatic machine guns. As Congress moves toward addressing renewing and strengthening the 1994 federal ban on assault weapons, today’s court action removes one more false, pro-assault weapon argument from the gun lobby’s quiver.”
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