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Supreme Court refuses to block assault weapons bans in Illinois

Daniel Slim/AFP/Getty Images

By Tierney Sneed

(CNN) — The Supreme Court refused to block a local and state ban on assault weapon sales in Illinois, rejecting an emergency request from gun rights advocates and a gun store.

A vote count was not disclosed and the court did not explain its action.

Wednesday’s move by the high court is the latest example of the justices staying out of Second Amendment-related disputes for the moment, after the conservative majority last year issued a major ruling expanding its scope.

The justices’ refusal to intervene in the Illinois case also comes while communities in several states are reeling from mass shootings, including, in some places, in attacks carried out with AR-15-style weapons, which are covered by the Illinois laws.

According to a brief filed by Naperville, which passed the local ban, whether “the Second Amendment protects the commercial sale of a limited category of assault rifles within one municipality’s borders has never been addressed by this Court.”

The gun rights advocates had asked for the law to be placed on hold while appeals in a challenge they’ve brought to the bans play out at lower courts. They argue that those courts have ignored last year’s landmark Supreme Court ruling that expanded Second Amendment rights.

“Since the Second Amendment presumptively protects Plaintiffs’ conduct, Respondents must justify the challenged laws by demonstrating that they are consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation,” the new application with the court said.

“But because the banned arms are commonly possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes, it is impossible for Respondents to carry their burden under Heller and Bruen. The reason for this is apparent from Heller and Bruen themselves – there is no historical analogue to such a ban.”

The 2022 Bruen decision instructed that lower courts look to the gun regulations that were in effect during the Constitution’s framing to decide whether a current gun law violates the Second Amendment.

The defenders of the assault weapons bans countered that the challengers had failed to meet the procedural threshold for the emergency action from the Supreme Court.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul wrote in court briefs that the types of firearms targeted by the state’s prohibitions fell outside of the Second Amendments protections for “firearms that are ‘commonly used’ for self-defense.

The appeal of the dispute currently underway at the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals has been fast tracked, with the appeals court scheduled to hear arguments in the case on June 29.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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