WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to block a new law in Illinois that bans assault-style weapons, such as the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, which has been used in several mass shootings.
The decision in a brief unsigned order means the Illinois law passed in the wake of a July 4 shooting in the town of Highland Park last year that killed seven will remain in effect while legal challenges continue. In a separate case, a federal judge blocked the law, but the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals has put that ruling on hold.
The Supreme Court in January declined to block new New York gun restrictions. The two decisions taken together indicate that the justices are willing to give lower courts time to consider the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision last summer that dramatically expanded gun rights under the Constitution’s Second Amendment.
The appeals court also expedited the hearing of five different cases challenging the new law. The Illinois Supreme Court is considering a similar case.
A local gun ordinance in Naperville, Illinois that bans assault-style weapons will also remain in effect as a result of the Supreme Court action.
Dudley Brown, president of the National Association for Gun Rights, one of the groups involved in the challenge, predicted that the Supreme Court will ultimately decide the issue.
“Communally owned guns are protected by the Second Amendment, and banning them must be stopped,” he said.
The state law, passed in January, bans what the state defines as “assault weapons,” including the AR-15 rifle, as well as high-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds for a long gun or more than 15 rounds of ammunition for handgun.
The law does not prohibit handguns. It does not affect people who already own the firearms covered by the ban.
A spokeswoman for Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said “Illinois communities will continue to benefit from this important public safety measure” as litigation progresses.
Gun rights activists, including Robert Bevis, a Naperville gun store owner, have sued to block the local ordinance and the state law, saying the measures violate their Second Amendment right to bear arms.
The Supreme Court’s decision last year has prompted a new wave of legislation in Democratic-leaning states, even as America remains haunted by regular mass shootings.
“States and cities should have the right to stop these weapons of war from destroying our communities,” said Kris Brown, president of the gun control group Brady.
Illinois is one of 10 states that have a ban on what gun control advocates call assault weapons, several of which have been passed in the last year.