Supreme Court Declines to Put Illinois Weapons Ban on Hold While Court Challenge Continues

The setting sun illuminates the Supreme Court building on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 10, 2023. (AP Photo / Patrick Semansky, File)The setting sun illuminates the Supreme Court building on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 10, 2023. (AP Photo / Patrick Semansky, File)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday said Illinois can keep in place a new law that bars the sale of certain semi-automatic weapons and large-capacity magazines — at least for now.

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The court denied an emergency request from groups challenging the law, which bans so-called assault weapons. The law’s opponents had asked the high court to put the ban on hold while a court challenge continues. The Supreme Court did not comment and no justice publicly dissented.

The order denying the injunction was issued by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who handles emergency appeals from the region.

The immediate effect of the Wednesday decision is that the current bans will likely stay in effect as a federal appeals court hears arguments. 

The case involves challenges to both an ordinance passed by the city of Naperville that bans the sale of assault weapons and the Illinois state law that went into effect this year that bans the sale of certain weapons and large-capacity magazines.

Those who already owned firearms covered by the state law were allowed to keep them, but they were required to register them with the state before January 2024.

Read More: Which Guns Are Covered by Illinois’ Assault Weapons Ban?

Among the guns classified as “assault weapons” under the Illinois law are various AR-15 style guns.

The state law also limits magazines, including nothing over 15 rounds for handguns or 10 rounds for long guns, like rifles.

The law also includes bans on a slew of features, such as pistol grips and telescoping stocks.

The bans were passed in the wake of a Fourth of July parade mass shooting in suburban Highland Park that left seven people dead. The shooter was armed with an AR-15 rifle and 30-round magazines, according to prosecutors. 

A federal trial court in February also declined to put the law on hold while the case continues, as did a federal appeals court.

At the state level, the Illinois ban is also undergoing a challenge currently in front of the Illinois Supreme Court. On Tuesday, state justices heard arguments as they are being asked to weigh the law’s constitutionality.

Read More: Illinois Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Challenge to State’s Assault Weapons Ban

The case in front of the Illinois Supreme Court was brought by state Rep. Dan Caulkins, R-Decatur, on behalf of gun owners, against Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Attorney General Kwame Raoul and the legislature’s leaders.

The Illinois Supreme Court must decide if they agree with a downstate judge who ruled the ban violates Illinois’ “equal protection” requirement.

The central point of the plantiff's argument contends the law violates Illinois’ “equal protection” requirement beacause it treats people different, namely that it contains a grandfather clause for those who peviously owned the now-banned weapons and that is allows members of law enforcement to own those same firearms. 

The conservative majority of the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that Americans have a right to carry firearms in public for self-defense, which was a big win for gun rights advocates. That decision did not wade into whether state certain restrictions would be constitutional.

Nine other states and the District of Columbia have gun bans similar to the one in Illinois, according to the gun control group Brady, which tracks the legislation. California, Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey and New York also require registration of guns purchased prior to the law while four other states – Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts and Washington – do not.

The Associated Press and WTTW News reporter Amanda Vinicky contributed. 

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