The Supreme Court declined to immediately block Illinois’s assault weapons and high-capacity magazine bans, leaving them in place, for now.
A gun rights group and gun shop owner asked the justices to pause the law’s enforcement by intervening in the case ahead of an appeals court’s final ruling. The lawsuit also challenges an ordinance in Naperville, Ill., that bans the sale of assault rifles.
The justices, in a brief, unsigned order, declined to step in at this stage of the case, which could ultimately return to the Supreme Court on the merits.
Last summer, the conservative majority handed down the court’s largest expansion of gun rights in more than a decade, ruling that gun control measures must be consistent with the nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.
A number of Democratic-led states passed new gun laws following the decision, and lawsuits were quickly filed.
But the Supreme Court has since on three occasions declined to take an aggressive approach using the court’s emergency docket, which only involves minimal briefing and no oral argument, to intervene in gun law challenges.
In Illinois, Democrats looked to pass new gun control measures following a mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Ill., which killed seven people while wounding dozens of others.
The city of Naperville, located about 35 miles southwest of Highland Park, passed an ordinance last August that bans the sale of assault rifles, defined to include 26 categories of weapons or other firearms that meet certain criteria. It went into effect in January.
Robert Bevis, the owner of Law Weapons, a firearm store in Naperville, sued over the ordinance, and the National Association for Gun Rights joined his effort.
They later added to their lawsuit a challenge to the Protect Illinois Communities Act, which was enacted on Jan. 10 and banned the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines statewide. Residents who already owned such weapons could legally keep them.
A federal district judge in a preliminary ruling declined to block either the state law or the city ordinance in February. Late last month, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined a request to put the measures on hold as the gun rights advocates appealed.
The advocates then brought the request to the Supreme Court.
A separate lawsuit recently caused the state law to be briefly put on hold, but the measure was quickly put back into effect.
The justices in the dispute took a similar route to how they handled two other emergency requests to block New York gun laws earlier this year.
Attached to one of those rulings, conservative Justice Samuel Alito, joined by fellow conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, wrote in a statement that advocates “should not be deterred” and that the court declining to step in was over procedural considerations, rather than expressing a view on the merits of the case.
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