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Supreme Court refuses to hear challenge to New York’s SAFE Act

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear a legal challenge that claimed the assault weapons ban included in New York’s SAFE Act was unconstitutional.

Without comment, the justices declined to review a lower-court ruling that upheld the constitutionality of the New York ban, which bars the sale of a series of semi-automatic weapons based on their physical characteristics. The high court on Monday also upheld a similar Connecticut ban on assault weapons.

Monday’s Supreme Court action means that a ruling from March by the 2nd Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals will stand. That decision was the second issued by the federal appeals court saying the SAFE Act’s ban on semiautomatic assault-style weapons, along with a prohibition on large-capacity ammunition magazines, do not violate the Second Amendment’s guarantee of the right to keep and bear arms.

The plaintiff in the March case, Douglas E. Kampfer, then appealed that second decision to the Supreme Court.

The New York State Rifle and Pistol Association also filed a separate court challenge to the SAFE Act and lost its case at the appeals court last October. But the gun group withdrew its appeal to the high court after the February death of Justice Antonin Scalia, said Tom King, the organization’s president.

He said his organization feared that a 4-4 tie in that case at the Supreme Court would, in effect, give the high court’s final approval for the SAFE Act provisions. Withholding the gun group’s case, though, would give it another chance to appeal to the Supreme Court at a later point in time.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo pushed the State Legislature to enact the SAFE Act in 2013, shortly after a gunman killed 27 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

The high court’s decision not to review the SAFE Act’s assault weapons ban comes at a pivotal time in the nation’s debate about gun control, which flared yet again in the wake of the mass murder of 49 patrons at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., only eight days ago.

Monday night, for example, the Senate is set to take up legislation that aims to bar people on the terrorism watch list from buying guns.