SCOTUS shocker: Supreme Court refuses to block blue state assault weapon ban

"The Supreme Court once again reaffirms the rights of legislators and local officials to pass gun safety laws"

Published May 17, 2023 1:50PM (EDT)

Clarence Thomas | Guns (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Clarence Thomas | Guns (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

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State and local laws banning the sale of assault weapons will stand in Illinois for the time being, following the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal on Wednesday to temporarily block the measures while pro-gun groups appeal them in lower courts.

The high court did not disclose how each justice voted or explain their reasoning for the decision, releasing only a brief statement saying that the request for an injunction was denied.

A gun store in Naperville, Illinois joined the National Association for Gun Rights in challenging a local ordinance that blocks the sale of assault weapons, defined as 26 firearms and other weapons that meet certain criteria. The law went into effect in January after being passed last August, a month after seven people were killed and nearly 50 were injured in a mass shooting in Highland Park, 35 miles away from Naperville.

The lawsuit also challenges the Protect Illinois Communities Act, which also went into force in January and bans the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines across the state.

The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals has taken up the case and is scheduled to hear arguments on June 29.

"This is an important victory in the fight to end gun violence as the U.S. continues to deal with multiple mass shootings."

The gun store and pro-gun group cited two landmark rulings by the Supreme Court, including District of Columbia v. Heller, which held that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to possess a firearm for "lawful purposes," independent of serving in a militia; and New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, which held that courts must consider the gun regulations that were in effect when the Constitution was written when they decide whether a gun law should stand.

The latter ruling expanded access to firearms last year even as gun violence surpassed vehicle accidents as the leading cause of death among children in the United States.

The plaintiffs claimed that "there is no historical analogue to such a ban" as the ones passed in Illinois. State Attorney General Kwame Raoul countered in a court brief that the types of guns targeted by the laws, such as one used by the shooter in Highland Park, fall well outside the Constitution's protections for "firearms that are 'commonly used' for self-defense."

The gun control group Brady said Wednesday's development at the Supreme Court, while not the final word on the case, was "an important victory in the fight to end gun violence."

"This is a great victory for Americans and all of us working to protect our children from the gun violence epidemic facing our nation," said Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, senior adviser to advocacy group Giffords. "With this ruling the Supreme Court once again reaffirms the rights of legislators and local officials to pass gun safety laws."

By Julia Conley

Julia Conley is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

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Assault Weapon Bans Gun Violence Highland Park Massacare Illinois Partner Scotus Supreme Court