The Supreme Court just cleared the way for more assault rifle bans

The Supreme Court let stand laws in New York and Connecticut that restrict access to assault rifles like the one used last week in the Orlando mass shooting.
June 20, 2016, 2:46pm
Photo by Erik S. Lesser/EPA

The US Supreme Court rejected a challenge brought by gun rights advocates on Monday, letting stand laws in New York and Connecticut that restrict access to assault rifles like the one used in last week's mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

The justices declined to hear an appeal of an October ruling by the New York-based 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld laws prohibiting semiautomatic weapons and large capacity magazines in the two northeastern states. The decision not to hear the case does not set a Supreme Court precedent, but gives tacit approval for states and local governments to enact broad gun-control laws.

The laws in New York and Connecticut, among the strictest in the nation, were enacted after a gunman with a semiautomatic rifle killed 20 young children and six educators in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

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The challengers had asserted that the laws violated the Constitution's protection of the right to bear arms. In total, seven states and the District of Columbia ban semi-automatic rifles. A national law barring assault weapons expired in 2004, and congressional Republicans and some Democrats, backed by the influential National Rifle Association gun rights lobby, beat back efforts to restore it.

The Supreme Court issued important rulings in gun cases in 2008 and 2010 but has not taken up a major firearms case since. The expired federal assault gun ban had barred the manufacture and sale of semi-automatic guns with military-style features as well as magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

The New York and Connecticut laws were challenged by pro-gun groups including the Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen and the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association as well as individual gun owners. The appeals court consolidated the two cases and upheld the law.

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