U.S. Supreme Court denies Illinois’ gun ban challenge as not ready yet

(The Center Square) – The U.S. Supreme Court declined taking up the cases challenging Illinois’ gun ban, saying they aren’t ready yet but also criticizing an appeals court’s rationale for denying a preliminary injunction.

Tuesday, Justice Clarence Thomas denied writs of certiorari for the six cases challenging gun bans in Illinois.

“Petitioners sought a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of the law, arguing that the law violates their Second Amendment right to ‘keep and bear Arms.’” Thomas wrote. “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.”

Illinois banned the sale and possession of more than 170 semi-automatic firearms and magazines over certain capacities in January 2023. Lawsuits were filed in federal court challenging the law.

Throughout last year, different rulings on initial requests to block the law temporarily while the merits of the challenges were adjudicated were issued by the Southern and Northern District federal courts.

While the Northern district said the state had a likelihood of advancing on the merits, the Southern District issued a preliminary injunction saying the plaintiffs had a likelihood of winning. That preliminary injunction was reversed on appeal to the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeal, which then sided with the state on preliminary grounds.

Plaintiffs in several gun ban challenges then asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene in the middle of the case several times. Tuesday’s decision gives certainty that the U.S. Supreme Court won’t take the cases without final judgment on the merits.

“We have never squarely addressed what types of weapons are ‘Arms’ protected by the Second Amendment,” Thomas wrote. “The Seventh Circuit’s decision illustrates why this Court must provide more guidance on which weapons the Second Amendment covers.”

Thomas then discussed the Seventh Circuit’s “contrived ‘non-militaristic’ lamination on the Arms protected by the Second Amendment,” saying it “seems unmoored from both text and history. … And, even on its own terms, the Seventh Circuit’s application of its definition is nonsensical.”

In his 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,” he wrote.

While criticizing the appeals court, Thomas reiterated justices are denying the request for the court to take the case.

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

The move means the Southern District of Illinois federal court where four consolidated gun ban challenges are being considered is expected to move forward with a bench trial on the merits scheduled for Sept. 16 in East St. Louis.

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