US Supreme Court gives nod to assault weapons ban

The US Supreme Court on Monday left in place one state's ban on weapons like this semiautomatic AR-15 rifle, similar to the arms used in the recent mass shootings in Nevada and Texas (AFP Photo/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI) (AFP/File)

Washington (AFP) - The US Supreme Court appeared on Monday to back lawmakers who want to restrict the type of guns such as semi-automatic assault weapons used in recent mass shootings.

In a 7-2 vote, the high court's justices refused to take up a challenge to a Chicago suburb's ban on the sale or possession of semi-automatic weapons or high-capacity magazines with more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

The court's move is a small victory for activists against the spread of such guns, which can potentially kill many people in a short period of time.

"By rejecting this case, today the Supreme Court sided with a community that has taken action to protect itself from the type of violence we've seen in San Bernardino, on college campuses and in movie theaters," said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Center and Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Just last week, a husband and wife who authorities say had been radicalized for "quite some time" cut down 14 people and wounded another 21 in San Bernardino, California using legally purchased semi-automatic rifles.

Pediatrician Arie Friedman and the pro-gun Illinois State Rifle Association filed suit, saying his Second Amendment rights to bear arms under the US Constitution had been violated by the city of Highland Park's ban.

Friedman took his challenge to the Supreme Court after losing in lower courts.

Conservative justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, writing for the dissent, said they would have taken up the challenge.

"Roughly five million Americans own AR-style semiautomatic rifles," Thomas wrote in a six-page dissent.

"The overwhelming majority of citizens who own and use such rifles do so for lawful purposes, including self-defense and target shooting."

The justices have shied from weighing in on state and local disputes on gun rights in recent years.