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BREAKING: U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Hear Challenges to Illinois Assault Weapons Ban

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The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a series of challenges to Illinois’ ban on assault weapons, leaving the controversial law in place for now but indicating potential future involvement, WTTW and The Center Square are reporting. The decision comes after the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ban last November, stating that “even the most important personal freedoms have their limits.”

In a Tuesday order, the high court denied petitions for writs of certiorari in six cases challenging the ban. Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented, expressing a willingness to take up the issue once the cases reach final judgment. Justice Thomas wrote, “if the Seventh Circuit ultimately allows Illinois to ban America’s most common civilian rifle, we can — and should — review that decision once the cases reach a final judgment.”

The Illinois ban, part of the Protect Illinois Communities Act, was enacted in response to the tragic mass shooting at a Highland Park July 4 parade in 2022, where a gunman using an AR-15-style rifle killed seven people. The law prohibits the purchase and sale of firearms and accessories classified as assault weapons and imposes limits on magazine capacities for both handguns and long guns. Existing owners of these firearms were required to register them with the Illinois State Police by the end of 2023.

Justice Thomas criticized the Seventh Circuit’s decision, calling it “nonsensical” and arguing that common semiautomatic firearms like the AR-15 are protected under the Second Amendment. He cited his dissent in a similar 2015 case, Friedman v. City of Highland Park, to support his position.

The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear these cases leaves unresolved a significant legal question about the extent of Second Amendment protections. The Seventh Circuit’s ruling found that the guns and high-capacity magazines regulated under the Protecting Illinois Communities Act “lie on the military side of that line and thus are not within the class of Arms protected by the Second Amendment.”

Justice Thomas responded, “In my view, Illinois’ ban is ‘highly suspect because it broadly prohibits common semiautomatic firearms used for lawful purposes,’” adding that it is difficult to see how the Seventh Circuit could have concluded that the most widely owned semiautomatic rifles are not “Arms” protected by the Second Amendment.

While this decision denies immediate relief to the challengers, it sets the stage for a potential future Supreme Court review. The focus now shifts to the Southern District of Illinois federal court, where four consolidated gun ban challenges are expected to move forward with a bench trial scheduled for September 16 in East St. Louis.

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