US appeals court upholds Illinois assault weapons ban

US appeals court upholds Illinois assault weapons ban

(Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court on Friday upheld an Illinois state ban on assault-style weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines enacted after a 2022 mass shooting in Chicago’s Highland Park suburb that left seven people dead and dozens more wounded.

In a 2-1 vote, a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out a lower-court injunction imposed against the firearms restrictions in one set of cases and affirmed decisions keeping the law intact in another batch.

The appellate ruling also upheld several similar local laws in Illinois.

The Democratic-backed state measure bans the sale and distribution of many kinds of high-powered semiautomatic “assault weapons,” including AK-47 and AR-15 rifles, and large-capacity magazines.

Opponents challenged the measure on grounds that it violated the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment right for individuals to “keep and bear arms.”

The appellate panel held that like other constitutionally protected freedoms, Second Amendment gun rights were subject to certain limits that can be legitimately imposed by the government.

In one notable aspect of its reasoning in upholding the Illinois law, the appellate panel cited a U.S. Supreme Court opinion last year that struck down New York state’s limits on carrying concealed handguns outside the home.

In that case, the high court’s conservative majority established a new legal test for gun restrictions, saying they must be “consistent with this nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation” to pass muster.

Writing for the 7th Circuit on Friday, Judge Diane Wood, an appointee of former President Bill Clinton, said supporters of Illinois’ gun law “have a strong likelihood of success” in further litigation in light of the “tools of history and tradition to which the Supreme Court directed us” in the New York case and a similar challenge in the District of Columbia.

Wood was joined in the majority opinion by Judge Frank Easterbook, an appointee of former President Ronald Reagan. A dissent was entered by Judge Michael Brennan, an appointee of former President Donald Trump.

In August, a divided Illinois Supreme Court upheld the assault weapons ban in a separate case brought at the state court level, rejecting arguments that the law violated the state constitution by not applying the ban equally to all citizens.

Late last month, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that California’s assault weapons ban would remain in force while the state attorney general appealed a lower-court decision declaring that 30-year-old measure unconstitutional.

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