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Supreme Court rejects challenge to Illinois assault weapons ban

Gun rights groups were seeking to immediately block a law that bans assault-style firearms such as the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, as well as large-capacity magazines.
A gun store in Lake Barrington, Ill., on June 27, 2016.
A gun store in Lake Barrington, Ill., in 2016.Scott Olson / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Wednesday declined for now to block a new law in Illinois that bans assault-style weapons such as the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, which has been used in multiple mass shootings.

The decision in a brief unsigned order means the Illinois law enacted in the wake of a July 4 shooting in the city 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 U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has put that decision on hold.

The Supreme Court in January declined to block new New York gun restrictions. The two decisions taken together indicate the justices are willing to give lower courts time to consider the impact of the Supreme Court's ruling last summer that dramatically expanded gun rights under the Constitution's Second Amendment.

The appeals court also expedited consideration 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 bars 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.

"Commonly owned weapons are protected by the Second Amendment, and banning them has to stop," he said.

The state law, enacted in January, bans what the state defines as "assault weapons," including the AR-15 rifle, as well as large capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition for a long gun or more than 15 rounds of ammunition for handguns.

The law does not ban any handguns. It does not affect people who already own the firearms covered by the ban.

A spokeswoman for Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said "communities in Illinois will continue to benefit from this important public safety measure" as litigation moves forward.

Gun rights activists, including Robert Bevis, a gun store owner in Naperville, have sued to block the local ordinance and the state law, saying the measures violate their right to bear arms under the Second Amendment.

The Supreme Court ruling last year has prompted a new wave of lawmaking in Democratic-leaning states even as America continues to be haunted by regular mass shootings.

“States and cities should have the right to stop these weapons of war from decimating our communities,” said Kris Brown, president of the gun control group Brady.

Illinois is one of 10 states that has a ban on what gun control advocates call assault weapons, several of which have been enacted in the last year.