5 Temp. Pol. & Civ. Rts. L. Rev. 203 (1995-1996)
Happiness Is a Warm Gun: The Sixth Circuit Shoots Down a Ban on Assault Weapons

handle is hein.journals/tempcr5 and id is 209 raw text is: HAPPINESS IS A WARM GUN:' THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
On May 22, 1989, the City Council of Columbus, Ohio, enacted an
ordinance2 to ban assault weapons.3 It was ostensibly acting in response to
the increase of violent crime in American society and to prevent tragedies
similar to that which occurred in Stockton, California, in 1989 in which five
school children were killed by a man armed with an AK-47 assault rifle.4 On
July 11, 1994, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit struck
down the Columbus ordinance in Springfield Armory, Inc. v. City of
The plaintiffs in the case were two gun manufacturers, a gun dealer, and
two potential gun buyers.6 The plaintiffs challenged the ordinance on two
grounds,7 neither of which involved the Second Amendment.8 First, they
contended that the ordinance was an unconstitutional bill of attainder be-
cause it applied only to the named manufacturers and not to other manufac-
turers of similar weapons.9 Second, the plaintiffs contended that the
ordinance was unconstitutionally vague.10
The District Court dismissed the bill of attainder claim following a mo-
tion for summary judgment. On the vagueness claim, the District Court
1. JoHN LENNON & PAUL MCCARTNEY, Happiness is a Warm Gun, on THE BEATLES (EMI
Records 1968).
2. Columbus, Oh., Ordinance 1226-89 (May 22, 1989).
3. Thomas R. Thompson, Form or Substance? Definitional Aspects of Assault Weapon Leg-
islation, 17 FLA. ST. U. L. REv. 649, 652 (1990). Assault weapons are defined as guns having
such high rate of fire and capacity for firepower that [their] function as a legitimate sports or
recreational firearm is substantially outweighed by the danger that [they] can be used to kill and
injure human beings (quoting CAL- PENAL CODE § 12275.5 (West 1990)).
4. See Five Children Killed As Gunman Attacks a California School, N.Y. TIMES, Jan. 18,
1989, at Al. Patrick Purdy, 24, killed five children and wounded 29 others with a Russian
designed AK-47 assault rifle. Id.
5. 29 F.3d 250, 251 (6th Cir. 1994).
6. Id. The gun manufacturers were Springfield Armory, Inc., located in Illinois, and Colt's
Manufacturing Company, Inc., located in Connecticut. Barbara Carmen, City's Law Stands Up
In U.S. Court, COLUM. DisP., June 23, 1992, at Bi. The plaintiffs received financial backing from
the National Rifle Association (NRA) and were represented by Stephen P. Halbrook, a noted
NRA attorney. Randall Edwards, Assault Gun Law Nullified, COLUM. Disp., July 12, 1994, at
7. Springfield Armory, 29 F.3d at 251.
8. The Second Amendment provides, in full: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to
the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.
U.S. CoNsT. amend. II. See Presser v. Illinois, 116 U.S. 252, 258-67 (1886) (holding that the
Second Amendment only restricts the power of Congress and the federal government, not the
9. Springfield Armory, 29 F.3d at 251.
10. Id.
11. Springfield Armory, Inc. v. City of Columbus, 805 F. Supp. 489, 500 (S.D. Ohio 1992).

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