The Supreme Court has so far resisted elaborating on two landmark decisions that established a nationwide right to defend one’s home with a gun.
That could change with a new appeal filed by gun owners that challenges a Chicago suburb’s ban on semiautomatic firearms.
The appeal by Dr. Arie Friedman and the Illinois State Rifle Association argues that the City of Highland Park has violated their constitutional rights by banning some of the most popular semiautomatic guns in the United States, as well as magazines of more than 10 rounds.
The justices put off consideration of the appeal last week. In recent years, the court has almost always deferred action on an appeal before agreeing to take it up.
The court could say as early as Monday whether it will hear the case.
Friedman is a practicing pediatrician and owner of semiautomatic firearms. He lost a bid for the state Senate as a Republican in 2012 in a campaign in which some conservatives complained about his support for abortion rights. In recent days, Friedman has used his Twitter account to offer tips for Israelis who want to arm themselves in public. He did not respond to messages left with his medical practice.
The Supreme Court’s 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller and the 2010 decision in McDonald v. Chicago focused mainly on the right to defend one’s own home. Gun rights groups have failed repeatedly to get the justices to say how broadly the Second Amendment protects gun rights.
The court has turned away challenges to gun laws at least three other times in cases that involved whether people have a right to be armed in public.
Even though lower courts have mainly upheld gun restrictions, the Highland Park case arises out of a decision by the federal appeals court in Chicago that struck down the only statewide ban on carrying concealed firearms in Illinois.
In 2013, when state lawmakers reacted to the court ruling by making it legal to carry a gun, they gave cities around the state 10 days to come up with local restrictions on semiautomatic firearms, or forfeit their right to do so.
Highland Park was one of fewer than 20 municipalities, all in the Chicago area, to enact regulations or bans, according to the rifle association.
The city’s ban on semiautomatic guns was upheld by the appeals court in a 2-1 decision.
“If a ban on semiautomatic guns and large-capacity magazines reduces the perceived risk from a mass shooting and makes the public feel safer as a result, that’s a substantial benefit,” Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote for the court. Variations of the Bushmaster AR-15, one of the guns specifically banned by Highland Park, were used in the Newtown, Connecticut, school massacre and the theater shootings in Aurora, Colorado.