Judge Diane Sykes, one of the names on President-elect Donald Trump’s list to replace Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court bench, recently wrote a critical decision in defense of the Second Amendment.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit handed down a big, pro-Second Amendment decision that hit back against onerous regulations imposed on gun rights in the city of Chicago, via a majority opinion in the Ezell v. Chicago case on Wednesday.
The underlying issue in Ezell v. Chicago is the Windy City’s hostile reaction to the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in McDonald v. Chicago, in which the Court struck down the city’s handgun ban for violating the Second Amendment. In response to McDonald, Chicago enacted a new handgun permitting scheme which, among other things, required permit holders to complete one hour of training at a gun range. Yet Chicago also outlawed the existence of all gun ranges within city limits, thereby placing a rather significant obstacle in the path of any Chicago resident seeking to exercise his or her constitutional rights. In 2011 that city-wide gun range ban was struck down by the 7th Circuit. Judge Sykes also wrote that decision.
Yesterday’s ruling follows on the heels of the 2011 case. After losing in federal court five years ago, Chicago adopted another new regulatory scheme for gun ranges. But once again the city tried to smother the Second Amendment with red tape. For example, it imposed new zoning regulations that would only allow gun ranges within manufacturing districts while also forbidding gun ranges from being built within 100 feet of each other and within 500 feet of residential districts, schools, or places of worship. In addition, the city forbid anyone under the age of 18 from lawfully entering a gun range.
In her opinion on behalf of the majority, Judge Sykes shot down these unconstitutional restrictions and explained that under the new zoning laws:
only 2.2% of the city’s total acreage is even theoretically available, and the commercial viability of any of these parcels is questionable—so much so that no shooting range yet exists. This severely limits Chicagoans’ Second Amendment right to maintain proficiency in firearm use via target practice at a range. To justify these barriers, the City raised only speculative claims of harm to public health and safety. That’s not nearly enough to survive the heightened scrutiny that applies to burdens on Second Amendment rights.
Judge Sykes wrote that “the age restriction also flunks heightened scrutiny.” The judge continued and explained that the Second Amendment:
protects the right to learn and practice firearm use in the controlled setting of a shooting range. The City insists that no person under age 18 enjoys this right. That’s an extraordinarily broad claim, and the City failed to back it up. Nor did the City adequately justify barring anyone under 18 from entering a range. To the contrary, its own witness on this subject agreed that the age restriction is overbroad because teenagers can safely be taught to shoot and youth firearm instruction is both prudent and can be conducted in a safe manner.
Well, this decision certainly bodes well for the quality of the names on Trump’s SCOTUS list.
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