U.S. Supreme Court declines to temporarily halt Illinois assault weapons ban

The decision means the ban will now likely remain in effect while the federal appeals court in Chicago takes time to hear arguments in the case.

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Guns are displayed at Law Weapons and Supply in Naperville, owned by Robert Bevis, who joined others in asking the Supreme Court to block the Illinois ban on assault weapons.

Rich Hein/Sun-Times

The U.S. Supreme Court declined Wednesday to issue an injunction against Illinois’ assault-weapons ban, meaning it will now likely remain in effect while the federal appeals court in Chicago takes time to hear further arguments against it.

The court turned down the request by Robert Bevis, a Naperville gun shop owner, and the National Association for Gun Rights, who are among those seeking to block the law. They sought similar rulings from U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall in Chicago and from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

They appealed to Justice Amy Coney Barrett after being denied in both courts. On Wednesday, Barrett referred the matter to the full court, which denied the petition.

Though enforcement of the assault-weapons ban was briefly blocked by a federal judge in Southern Illinois, the 7th Circuit intervened early this month and allowed enforcement of the ban to continue. It has since consolidated challenges to the law and set oral arguments for June 29.

It ruled that its order allowing enforcement to continue “will remain in effect until these appeals have been resolved.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Attorney General Kwame Raoul said in statements they were pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision.

“The gun lobby has insisted on every legal maneuver to block this law, refusing to acknowledge that lives will be saved by this important piece of legislation,” Pritzker said. “Despite these challenges, I remain confident that the assault weapons ban will be upheld and will create a safer Illinois for our residents.”

Opponents have pointed to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last summer that found gun regulations must be “consistent with the nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.” That ruling was in the case known as New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen.

In a statement, the National Association for Gun Rights suggested the Supreme Court declined to step in Wednesday because the 7th Circuit is reviewing the assault weapons ban on an expedited basis.

“Commonly owned weapons are protected by the Second Amendment, and banning them has to stop,” said Dudley Brown, the group’s president. “It will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court, which will very soon be called upon to enforce their Bruen precedent on a nation full of lower courts determined to ignore both Bruen and the Second Amendment.”

Illinois’ law bans the sale of assault weapons and caps the purchase of magazines at 10 rounds for long guns and 15 for handguns. It also makes rapid-fire devices known as switches illegal because they turn firearms into fully automatic weapons.

Under the law, anyone who already owns the banned guns is allowed to keep them but required to register them with Illinois State Police by Jan. 1.

The law was enacted in January in response to the mass shooting at Highland Park’s Fourth of July parade that left seven people dead.

On Tuesday, the Illinois Supreme Court heard arguments on a state court challenge that alleges the law violates equal protection and special legislation clauses in the Illinois Constitution. But it often takes months for the court to rule.

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