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Supreme Court takes on major gun case, avoids others to ignite debate on second amendment rights

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The US Supreme Court has decided to sidestep several gun-related disputes, including a Democratic-backed ban on assault-style rifles in Illinois. The court’s decision came as it prepares to hear a major firearms case in its next term regarding homemade “ghost guns.”

The justices declined to hear appeals challenging the constitutionality of the Illinois ban, which some argued violated the Second Amendment right to bear arms. Additionally, the court ordered lower courts to re-examine challenges to New York state’s law prohibiting firearms in “sensitive places” and federal laws that restrict gun possession for individuals convicted of serious crimes and illegal drug users.

The Supreme Court’s direction for reassessment comes after its recent ruling in U.S. v. Rahimi, which upheld a federal law banning domestic abusers from possessing firearms. This ruling serves as a basis for re-evaluating previous decisions related to gun restrictions.

The court’s upcoming term will also address the legality of a federal regulation aimed at controlling “ghost guns.” These untraceable weapons, which can be assembled at home, have been on the rise in criminal activities across the country. The Supreme Court will hear the Biden administration’s appeal of a lower court’s ruling that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives exceeded its authority in issuing the 2022 rule targeting ghost gun parts and kits.

In the previous term, the Supreme Court made two significant gun-related rulings. In addition to the Rahimi decision, the court rejected a federal ban on “bump stock” devices that allow semiautomatic weapons to fire rapidly.

The Illinois ban, passed in 2023 after a tragic massacre, prohibits the sale and distribution of various high-powered semiautomatic rifles and large-capacity magazines. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ban, stating that the banned rifles and magazines are more akin to machine guns and military-grade weaponry than firearms used for self-defense. Justice Samuel Alito expressed his support for hearing the Illinois cases, while Justice Clarence Thomas voiced doubt about the 7th Circuit’s decision.

The availability of assault rifles remains a topic of intense debate in a nation deeply divided over how to address gun violence, including frequent mass shootings. With a conservative majority, the Supreme Court has taken a broad view of Second Amendment rights. In 2022, the court recognized the right to carry a handgun in public for self-defense and struck down gun limits in New York state. The recent Rahimi ruling clarified that modern gun restrictions need only a historical “analogue,” not an identical match, to comply with the Second Amendment.

The current focus is on the New York law that prohibits gun possession in “sensitive” locations, such as government buildings, schools, and public parks. The cases challenging the ban on felons owning guns involve individuals convicted of nonviolent crimes. The Biden administration is appealing a judicial decision that applied the ban to a Pennsylvania man convicted of welfare fraud. The administration is also appealing a decision supporting the ban for an individual caught with guns in his car who admitted to using marijuana. Notably, this is the same law under which Hunter Biden, the son of President Joe Biden, was convicted last month in Delaware.

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