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Supreme Court Declines To Consider Illinois’ ‘Assault Weapons’ Ban

The Supreme Court declined to take up a case involving a ban on certain semiautomatic firearms Tuesday, with Associate Justice Clarence Thomas issuing a statement on the denial.

Several pro-Second Amendment organizations, including Gun Owners of America (GOA) and the National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR), sued over the legislation banning multiple semiautomatic guns in January 2023. While Thomas did not join Associate Justice Samuel Alito in calling for the cases to be heard, he did say that the court should hear the cases “after final judgment.”

“This Court is rightly wary of taking cases in an interlocutory posture. But, I hope we will consider the important issues presented by these petitions after the cases reach final judgment. We have never squarely addressed what types of weapons are ‘Arms’ protected by the Second Amendment.,” Thomas wrote. “To be sure, we explained in District of Columbia v. Heller, that the Second Amendment’s protection ‘extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding.’ And, we noted that ‘the Second Amendment does not protect those weapons not typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes,’ recognizing ‘the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons.’ But, this minimal guidance is far from a comprehensive framework for evaluating restrictions on types of weapons, and it leaves open essential questions such as what makes a weapon ‘bearable,’ ‘dangerous,’ or ‘unusual.’”

“Assault weapons” is a euphemism that gun-control advocates use to gain support for banning certain semi-automatic firearms with features that provide a cosmetic similarity to firearms capable of fully-automatic operation. The National Shooting Sports Foundation estimated that over 24 million “modern sporting rifles,” which include the AR-15, are “in circulation” in a July 2022 release.

Rifles of any type were used in 489 homicides in 2022, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report Data Explorer. Knives were used in 1,216 killings, unknown weapons were used in 653 homicides and personal weapons (defined as hands, fists and feet) were used in 593 killings, according to the data.

“The Seventh Circuit’s contrived ‘non-militaristic’ limitation on the Arms protected by the Second Amendment seems unmoored from both text and history. And, even on its own terms, the Seventh Circuit’s application of its definition is nonsensical,” Thomas wrote. “In my view, Illinois’ ban is ‘highly suspect because it broadly prohibits common semiautomatic firearms used for lawful purposes.’ 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.” (

“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.,” Thomas added. “The Court must not permit ‘the Seventh Circuit [to] relegat[e] the Second Amendment to a second-class right.’”

Pro-Second Amendment groups vowed to continue their legal battle against the ban.

“Justice Thomas just told the nation that the 7th Circuit got it wrong when it ruled that AR-15s – the most commonly owned rifle in America – is not a gun at all under the Second Amendment. And yet, the entire Court – with the exception of Justice Alito – agreed to let that decision stand. Apparently, a right delayed is NOT a right denied for the Supreme Court. They better get used to hearing from us, because we will keep bringing them ‘assault weapons’ ban cases until they get it right,” NAGR President Dudley Brown said in a release.

“The Supreme Court rarely takes cases before a lower court has issued a full decision on the merits,” NRA-ILA Executive Director Randy Kozuch told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Justice Thomas made clear that the Court should take this case if the Seventh Circuit lets the ban stand. NRA will continue to pursue this challenge and others to laws that violate the right to keep and bear arms.”

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