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Supreme Court Won't Hear Case on Assault Weapons Ban

California gun-control advocates are praising the U.S. Supreme Court for leaving in place local bans on assault weapons. (iStockphoto/Ultra1s)
California gun-control advocates are praising the U.S. Supreme Court for leaving in place local bans on assault weapons. (iStockphoto/Ultra1s)
December 8, 2015

California's strict gun laws are safe, for now, after the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a case that could have overturned the Golden State's ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition.

The court left in place a local assault weapon ban in Highland Park, Ill., which means similar bans in other states remain legal.

Attorney Mike McLively with the San Francisco-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence said this bolsters his group's argument that common-sense gun laws don't violate the Second Amendment. He credited California's approach for a big drop in shootings.

"California's gun death rate since the early 90s - when California started passing a lot of pretty comprehensive gun reforms - that gun death rate has gone down substantially, and at a much greater rate than the rest of the country," he said.

California passed an assault-weapons ban in 1989. The federal ban passed in 1994 but was allowed to expire 10 years later. According to opponents, gun-control laws unfairly punish law-abiding gun owners and are ineffective because criminals buy weapons on the black market.

McLively said the state still sees too many assault rifles because manufacturers have exploited a loophole to get around the ban - producing a rifle with a magazine controlled by a so-called "bullet button."

"It's very easy to produce an assault weapon where the magazine pops out if you wear a glove that has sort of a bullet attached to the index finger," he said, "and it's this way of getting around California law."

The two shooters in the recent terrorist attack in San Bernardino reportedly used legally obtained assault-style rifles that were bullet-button-enabled, and semiautomatic handguns. Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill in 2013 to close the bullet-button loophole. In the wake of the massacre, gun-control groups are pushing for it to be reintroduced in 2016.

Information about the decision on Friedman vs. City of Highland Park is online at scotusblog.com.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA