Illinois granted permission
Illinois passed its ban after a gunman wielding a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle fired 83 rounds into a crowd at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park in 2022, killing seven people.
By KELSEY REICHMANN, Contributing Writer
WASHINGTON (CN)—The Supreme Court declined May 17 to ensure access to assault weapons in Illinois, turning down an entreaty from proponents of the Second Amendment.
Illinois passed its ban after a gunman wielding a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle fired 83 rounds into a crowd at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park last year, killing seven people. Though the Chicago suburb where the massacre occurred already has an ordinance prohibiting the sale of assault weapons, the shooter bought the gun in nearby Naperville. That city passed its own ordinance after the attack, followed soon after by Illinois passing the Protect Illinois Communities Act to halt the sale of the weapons statewide.
Led by the National Association for Gun Rights, several groups asked the justices to stop the state’s new ban from going into effect, claiming it violated the Constitution. With no noted dissents, the justices declined to offer an injunction on the law while the case is litigated in the lower courts. The court did not provide an explanation for its ruling.
Firearms covered by the law include AR-15 and AK-47 rifles, as well as features like flash suppressors, barrel shrouds or grenade launchers that can be added to guns to them more deadly. The law defines large-capacity magazines as those that carry more than 10 rounds of ammunition for a long gun or 15 rounds for handguns. Law enforcement, members of the military and other professionals are among the groups exempt from the law's restrictions, which prevent the sale, purchase, manufacture, delivery and importation of assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition feeding devices.
For residents who already own these weapons, their firearms must be registered with state police. Violations of the ban carry criminal penalties including felony charges with three-year minimum jail sentences.
Multiple legal battles are playing out across the state in response to the ban. The groups that filed an emergency application with the Supreme Court last week did so after both a federal judge and the Seventh Circuit turned them down.
At the time of their filing, however, a Trump-appointed federal judge had already ordered an injunction to another group making a similar challenge. Last Thursday, however, the Seventh Circuit lifted that injunction, making the appeal from the National Association for Gun Rights more urgent.
Joined by Law Weapons & Supply, the challengers argued that the law flew in the face of the justices' ruling last term in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen.
“This Court intended Bruen to be a course correction and a reminder to the lower courts that the Second Amendment is not a second-class right,” Barry Arrington wrote in the application for the gun advocates. “Unfortunately, if the 10 months of Second Amendment litigation since Bruen have taught us anything, it is that many of the lower courts did not get the message. This action is a case in point.”
Bruen changed the standard for how lower courts evaluate gun regulations under the Second Amendment, exchanging the categorical test for a historical analysis. Under the new formula, gun laws must be analogous to laws from the 1700s. Previously untested, the theory has caused disarray for lower courts trying to evaluate new gun relations in the wake of mass shootings.
Illinois argued its law fits squarely within the Second Amendment because assault weapons are not protected by the Constitution.
“By prohibiting the manufacture and sale of weapons and magazines increasingly used in the deadliest mass shootings, the Act comfortably fits within this pattern of regulation in response to new forms of violent crime perpetrated with technologically advanced weapons,” Illinois Solicitor General Jane Elinor Notz wrote in the state’s brief.
The Illinois attorney general’s office issued a statement following the court’s order, affirming its commitment to defending the law.
“We are pleased the Supreme Court has denied the emergency application for injunction pending appeal, and that communities in Illinois will continue to benefit from this important public safety measure,” a spokesperson said in an email. “The Attorney General’s office remains committed to defending the Protect Illinois Communities Act’s constitutionality.”
An advocacy group working with the state on the case said the gun rights groups were putting profits over safety in pursuing the case.
“This case is an example of the gun industry undermining the knowledge and needs of all those residing in Illinois,” Douglas Letter, chief legal officer at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said in a statement. “By trying to stop this ban, the gun industry is once again putting profits over safety.”
A screenshot from leaked footage shows a law enforcement officer checking his phone inside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde during the school shooting on May 24, 2022. Credit: Screenshot via Austin American-Statesman/KVUE
Texas lawmakers detail chaos in botched Uvalde police response
By CAMERON LANGFORD, Contributing Writer
UVALDE, Texas (CN)—Three hundred and seventy-six law enforcement officers responded to the Robb Elementary school shooting, but a new report digs into what delayed them from confronting the gunman and why some of the wounded were left without medical attention until it was too late.
Drawing on its closed-door interviews with 35 witnesses, a committee of the Texas House of Representatives released an 80-page interim report July 17 about its investigation into the shooting on May 24 in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 students and two teachers dead and 17 injured.
The report details the chaos that unfolded as police waited more than 70 minutes to breach doors to one of
the fourth-grade classrooms that Salvador Ramos had entered around 11:30 a.m. that day, firing over 100 rounds from his assault rifle within three minutes.
Though the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District had adopted a policy for responding to active shooters, the report recounts how Robb Elementary’s poor Wi-Fi signal delayed distribution of the principal’s lockdown alert to teachers.
The school district has nine campuses but just six police officers, and none of them are assigned full-time to Robb Elementary.
Pete Arredondo, the district’s police chief, was one of the first officers on the scene. The district’s active-shooter policy called for him to take the role of incident commander, but he told the Texas House committee in an inter- view he did not consider himself to be in charge.
According to the report, Arredondo mistakenly believed that the shooter had barricaded himself in a classroom and it was no longer an active-shooter situation, as police did not hear any screams or cries coming from the classrooms. He instead focused his attention on getting students out of the building.
The failure of law enforcement to set up a command post caused a breakdown in communication as police in the building, including Arredondo, did not immediately learn that a student who survived an initial burst of gunfire had repeatedly called 911 from inside one of the adjoining classrooms Ramos had entered.
"Some responders outside and inside the building knew that information through radio communications. But nobody in command analyzed this information to recognize that the attacker was preventing critically injured victims from obtaining medical care," the report states.
"Hundreds of responders from numerous law enforcement agencies—many of whom were better trained and better equipped than the school district police — quickly arrived on the scene," the report states. It notes that
officers from more than 20 agencies amassed at the school, including 149 Border Patrol agents and 91 Texas state police.
Agents in a Border Patrol tactical unit finally entered the classrooms and killed Ramos, who was 18. The report
describes how Arredondo fixated on finding a master key to get into one of the two classrooms Ramos entered.
Since the lock had not been working properly, according to the report, it may have been unlocked the whole
time even though school policy says all doors on campus were supposed to be locked. Nobody ever checked, however, during the May 24 shooting.
"Nobody called Principal [Mandy] Gutierrez to ask about the location of a master key. She had a key, and the head custodian had a key. Yet despite all the effort to find a key, nobody called her," the report states.
Lawmakers also detail Ramos’ background, namely how a group of his Uvalde peers who he talked to on the Snapchat app started calling him "school shooter" after he shared pictures of himself wearing body armor and posing with a BB gun he tried to convince them was a real gun.
After the massacre, the FBI interviewed Ramos’ ex-girlfriend, according to the Texas House committee report.
"She described the attacker as lonely and depressed, constantly teased by friends who called him a 'school shooter,'" the report says. "She said he told her repeatedly that he wouldn’t live past eighteen, either because
he would commit suicide or simply because he 'wouldn’t live long.'"
The report cites Ramos’ online activity, stating he began to show an interest in gore and violent sexual activity, watching and sometimes sharing videos of suicides and beheadings.
“Those with whom he played videogames reported that he became enraged when he lost. He made over-the-top threats, especially towards female players, whom he would terrorize with graphic descriptions of violence and rape,” it states.
Though Ramos stopped regularly attending school in the fifth grade, and by age 17 he had only completed the ninth grade, he had almost no disciplinary history at school.
And his increasingly troubling behavior did not put him on the radar of law enforcement. "There apparently was no information actually known to local Uvalde law enforcement that should have identified this attacker as a threat to any school campus before May 24, 2022," the report states.
According to the report, Ramos moved in with with his grandparents after having a bad argument with his mom. And he occasionally worked for his grandpa, who had an air-conditioning repair business and paid him in cash.
Because Ramos lived rent-free with his grandparents, he saved up enough money to buy two AR-15 style rifles and thousands of rounds of ammunition, spending over $4,000, in the days after May 16, when he turned 18 and became legally able to buy guns and bullets, the report says.
Ramos shot his grandmother in the face in their home the morning of May 24 before driving her pickup truck to Robb Elementary. She survived but her injuries reportedly prevented her from speaking to police investigators.
The report describes another factor that desensitized Robb Elementary School teachers to school-lock-down notifications. Uvalde is 75 miles east of the Mexico border, and police chases are a common occurrence in the town of around 15,000 residents.
Arredondo testified to the committee that, to avoid capture by law enforcement, drivers smuggling immigrants will purposely crash their cars, allowing themselves and their passengers to scatter.
A school official testified that since February 2021 "high-speed chases have been a daily event in the Uvalde area, causing Uvalde CISD schools to be secured or locked down frequently, with 47 'secure' or 'lockdown' events occur- ring since late February 2022, and approximately 90 percent of those being attributed to bailouts," the report states.
It says the constant alerts caused some Robb Elementary staffers to not take the alert involving Ramos seriously.
"The series of bailout-related alerts led teachers and administrators to respond to all alerts with less urgency when they heard the sound of an alert, many assumed that it was another bailout," it states.
The committee is comprised of Texas State Representatives Dustin Burrows, a Lubbock Republican, and Joe Moody, an El Paso Democrat, as well as Eva Guzman, a former Texas Supreme Court justice.
The committee says in its report it has not received evidence showing that if law enforcement had immediately breached the classrooms, shooting victims could have received medical attention to save their lives.
"However, given the information known about victims who survived through the time of the breach and who later died on the way to the hospital, it is plausible that some victims could have survived if they had not had to wait 73 additional minutes for rescue," the report concludes.