By Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up a series of cases seeking to expand gun rights, showing that even with its conservative majority it remains hesitant about wading into the contentious issue.
The court rejected 10 different appeals that had piled up in recent months challenging whether various firearms restrictions violated the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment right to bear arms.
Two conservative justices, Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh, said they would have heard one of the cases, a dispute from New Jersey over that state's concealed-carry gun permits. The court has a 5-4 conservative majority.
The justices left in place a lower court ruling that threw out a lawsuit challenging New Jersey's law mandating that people who want to carry handguns in public must show they have a special reason before they can obtain a permit. The court also turned down similar cases from Massachusetts and Maryland.
The court also declined to take up appeals challenging assault weapon bans in Massachusetts and Cook County, Illinois, a jurisdiction that includes Chicago.
The Massachusetts ban, enacted in 1998, was modeled after a federal assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 and was not renewed, largely because of Republican opposition in Congress. Cook County enacted its ban in 2006. Both measures barred specific firearms including AK-47s and AR-15s.
The influential National Rifle Association and others have been seeking to expand gun rights by challenging the legality of firearms restrictions passed at the state and local level.
The Supreme Court on April 27 dismissed an NRA-backed challenge to now-repealed New York City restrictions on handgun owners transporting their firearms outside the home, sidestepping a major ruling over the scope of Second Amendment protections.
The court's last major gun-rights ruling came a decade ago.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)