- Posted January 10, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Gun control debate: Background checks
Assault Weapons Ban : New Judicial Precedent
One of the most interesting portions of the opinion, written by Judge Richard Posner, describes the burden on the state when it comes to restricting a right.
"The theoretical and empirical evidence (which overall is inconclusive) is consistent with concluding that a right to carry firearms in public may promote self-defense. Illinois had to provide us with more than merely a rational basis for believing that its uniquely sweeping ban is justified by an increase in public safety. It has failed to meet this burden."
Basically, there are 2 main points:
1. The evidence is consistent and concludes that carrying a weapon in public may promote self defense.
2. In order to restrict a right, the state has to "provide us with more than merely a rational basis for believing that its uniquely sweeping ban is justified by an increase in public safety."
The first point is important because it acknowledges the fact that gun ownership increases, not decreases, safety.
Even more interesting is the second point...clearly establishing that the state has to provide compelling justification that any restriction will have a positive impact on public safety.
If an assault weapons ban is passed into law, this section of this ruling will be used as part of the first lawsuit brought against the law. Can the federal government provide empirical evidence that an assualt weapons ban will increase public safety?
Before you answer too quickly, there are a lot of factors to consider. Over the last 5 years, the number of murders committed with a rifle has averaged about 350. That number is very small in the context of the total number of murders...less than 10% of the number of murders committed with handguns. Even if we assume all of them were committed with an "assault rifle" (a ridiculous assumption), the government would have to prove that banning them would be a net benefit to the public safety. Proving a net benefit will be a difficult task for the government.
I make no claim with respect to being a legal expert, but I think the language is pretty clear. The government can't simply claim an assault weapons ban will make people safer, they are going to have to prove it. With the number of annual deaths from assault weapons being so low, I think it will be a difficult thing to do.