Are Assault Weapon Bans Constitutional?

Last fall I was leading a discussion at our local library about the proposed NYS Constitutional Convention. After we have been talking for a while, I made a statement that if there is a Constitutional Convention, whatever they change in Albany will not affect our rights in the Federal Constitution. A woman automatically reacted and said, “That’s not true.” I was stunned. She then said, “We have the SAFE Act and that’s unconstitutional.” I’m sure she didn’t believe me when told her that the SAFE Act had never been declared unconstitutional. I left it at that, since the purpose of the meeting was to talk about the pros and cons of approving the Convention in November.

Many like the woman in the discussion have heard that the SAFE Act is unconstitutional. She has heard it at SCOPE Rallies and from our own Congressman, an attorney.  They don’t make that decision. Courts do.

I could have said that the SAFE Act has been reviewed twice in Federal Courts, and twice in New York State Courts. The Courts declared some parts of it not proper ( ie the seven bullet limit) but upheld the SAFE Act. Matter of fact the United States Supreme Court decided not to look at the SAFE Act, and a similar law from Connecticut.


We need to remember that the 2008 Supreme Court decision Heller v District of Columbia declared that hand guns could not be banned,  but that regulation of gun ownership was compatible with the Second Amendment. Justice Scalia said, “We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms.  We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons.’”

Although we do not have federal laws against assault weapons, the following states, and the District of Columbia, do. Those laws have not been declared unconstitutional.


Assault Weapons Bans

Also, local municipalities the District of Columbia, Illinois (Chicago and Cook County), Indiana (Gary and East Chicago), and Massachusetts (Boston) have banned or restricted the possession of assault weapons.

The chart and above statement is from this Wikipedia article.

Earlier NewNY23rd articles on the legality of the SAFE Act:

New Year Eves SAFE Act Surprise

 NYS Supreme Court rules in favor of the SAFE Act 

SAFE Act approved by Federal Appeals Court


About pystew

Retired Teacher, political science geek, village trustee. I lean a little left, but like a good political discussion. My blog, the New NY 23rd (http://newny23rd) is about discussing the issues facing the people of our new congressional district. Let's hear all sides of the issues, not just what the candidates want us to hear.
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7 Responses to Are Assault Weapon Bans Constitutional?

  1. Tom Loix says:

    Let’s not forget the banning of the infamous duck gun 100 or more years ago.


  2. Steve Beikirch says:

    Rich, I can’t count the number of times I have had similar discussions with people (including SCOPE members) who believe the NYSAFE Act is unconstitutional. My reply is always simple, very much like you have stated here, the courts have never ruled the NYSAFE Act unconstitutional. Even the Assault Weapons ban passed into law in 1994 was never struck down. If Congress had a spine it would not have been allowed to expire in 2004.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. josephurban says:

    We have an entire industry based on the words” That’s unconstitutional”. What those words usually mean are:” I am so stupid I don’t know how government functions. I have no understanding of checks and balances and the role of the Supreme Court.” The people who make these claims tend to see themsleves as patriotic Americans who understand the Constitution better than the Supreme Court. To echo a great American: “Sad. Very sad.”.


  4. whungerford says:

    Beware of meaningless gestures–regulations which conflict with law and so are likely to be overturned as well as laws and regulations not intended or likely to be effective.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. whungerford says:

    Do eighteen year old youth have a “Constitutional right” to buy guns as the NRA alleges? Really, what about ten year olds?


  6. josephurban says:

    The Heller decision was pretty clear. People have an individual right to own a weapon. The government has the ability to limit WHO can own weapons and WHAT TYPE of weapons can be owned. That was in the opinion of Justice Scalia, who wrote for the majority in the case.


  7. Pingback: Are Assault Weapon Bans Constitutional? — New NY 23rd – THE BIG BUCK HUNTER 2018

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