US Court of Appeals upholds Illinois assault weapons ban


Written by Steve Gorman

(Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court on Friday upheld Illinois’ ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, imposed after a 2022 mass shooting in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park that left seven people dead and dozens wounded.

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

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

The Democratic-backed government measure bans the sale and distribution of several types of high-powered semi-automatic “assault weapons,” including AK-47 and AR-15 rifles, and large-capacity magazines.

Opponents challenged this measure on the grounds that it violates the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, which stipulates the right of individuals to “keep and bear arms.”

The appeals panel held that, like other constitutionally protected freedoms, Second Amendment gun rights were subject to certain restrictions that the government could legitimately impose.

In a prominent aspect of the reasons for upholding the Illinois law, the appeals committee cited a US Supreme Court opinion last year that struck down New York State’s restrictions on carrying concealed handguns outside the home.

In that case, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority set a new legal test for gun restrictions, saying they must be “consistent with this nation’s historical tradition of regulating firearms” to succeed.

Judge Diane Wood, an appointee of former President Bill Clinton, told the 7th Circuit on Friday that proponents of Illinois’ gun law “have a strong likelihood of success” in further lawsuits in light of the “tools of history and tradition used by the Supreme Court” in the case. New York and a similar appeal in the District of Columbia.

Wood was joined in the majority opinion by Justice Frank Easterbuck, an appointee of former President Ronald Reagan. Judge Michael Brennan, appointed by former President Donald Trump, dissented.

In August, a divided Illinois Supreme Court upheld the assault weapons ban in a separate state court case, rejecting arguments that the law violates 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 effect while the state’s attorney general appealed a lower court decision that declared the 30-year-old measure unconstitutional.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Jimmy Freed)

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