SCOTUS Won’t Hear Illinois AR-15 Ban Challenges


On July 2, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal in Barnett v. Raoul, one of several challenges to Illinois’ bans on Modern Sporting Rifles (MSRs) and standard-capacity magazines. The decision not to review the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit’s decision at this stage of the litigation does not mean the Supreme Court will not review the matter later after judgment in the Seventh Circuit.

The Supreme Court denied review (technically, denied a writ of certiorari) now because the U.S. Court of Appeals has not yet issued a final judgment. Justice Samuel Alito, however, would have granted the petition now. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote, “This Court is rightly wary of taking cases in an interlocutory posture. But, I hope we will consider the important issue presented by these petitions after the cases reach final judgment.”

A similar case, National Association for Gun Rights v. Naperville, also was denied SCOTUS review. In that case, a U.S. District Court previously denied a preliminary injunction to block a law affecting gun owners, a decision upheld by the 7th Circuit. This ruling controversially stated that AR-15s are not protected by the Second Amendment.

Justice Thomas concluded Illinois’ bans are “highly suspect,” finding it “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 added, “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. The Court must not permit ‘the Seventh Circuit [to] relegat[e] the Second Amendment to a second-class right.’”

“We are disappointed the U.S. Supreme Court chose not to accept this challenge at this time to what is clearly an unconstitutional law,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general counsel. “The Modern Sporting Rifle – or AR-15-style rifle – is the most popular-selling centerfire rifle in America, used for lawful purposes every day. That includes recreational target shooting, hunting and self-defense. These rifles are clearly ‘Arms’ that are protected by the Second Amendment for law-abiding citizens to keep and bear.”

There are more than 28.1 million MSRs in circulation today, outnumbering the total of Ford F-150s on the road today — the most popular pick-up truck in America.

Barnett v. Raoul, which is a challenge to Illinois’ ban on MSRs and standard-capacity magazines, will now proceed to trial later this year in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

In the Naperville judgment, Justice Clarence Thomas criticized the 7th Circuit’s decision as “nonsensical,” arguing that AR-15s, as widely owned semi automatic rifles, are indeed “Arms” under the Second Amendment. He emphasized the importance of the Supreme Court reviewing this decision if it returns in a final judgment posture.

Hannah Hill, executive director for the National Foundation for Gun Rights, the named litigant in Napierville, expressed frustration, saying, “Today’s decision tells the lower courts they’re more than welcome to trample Bruen to their hearts’ content – at least for the time being. For now, the Second Amendment is a second-class right until the Supreme Court decides to stop ducking the issue.”



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