The U.S. Supreme Court Monday handed a legal victory to advocates of banning firearms commonly known as assault weapons.
By leaving a suburban Chicago gun control law intact, the court gave a boost to efforts aimed at imposing such bans elsewhere, at a time of renewed interest in gun regulation after recent mass shootings.
Police say the attackers in San Bernardino used such weapons as did the gunman who attacked a Planned Parenthood clinic two weeks ago in Colorado.
The court declined to take up a challenge to a 2013 law passed in Highland Park, Illinois that bans the sale, purchase, or possession of semi-automatic weapons that can hold more than ten rounds in a single ammunition clip or magazine. It specifically includes certain rifles, including those resembling the AR-15 and AK-47 assault-style firearms.
Semi-automatic weapons are capable of shooting a single round with each pull of the trigger and, consequently, can fire rapidly. Large capacity magazines reduce the need to reload as often.
A federal district judge upheld the law, and so did a federal appeals court panel by a 2-1 vote. On Monday the Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas said the Supreme Court should have taken the case. Thomas wrote their dissent, said the court should have granted review to prevent the appeals court “from relegating the Second Amendment to a second-class right.”
Central to the dispute was a 2008 Supreme Court decision that for the first time said the Constitution’s Second Amendment provides an individual right to own a handgun for self defense. While it was a watershed ruling for gun rights, it also said “dangerous and unusual weapons” can be restricted.
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