04/05/2012 11:32 am ET

Cook County Assault Weapons Ban Challenge Stalled: State Supreme Court Declines To Rule

The Illinois Supreme Court declined to rule Thursday on a challenge to Cook County's current ban on assault weapons, a move gun rights advocates are considering a victory.

Justices voted unanimously Thursday that it "cannot be said conclusively whether 'assault weapons' as defined by the ordinance fall within or outside the scope of the rights protected by the Second Amendment," according to a written opinion, as reported by the Chicago Sun-Times. The issue was remanded to a lower court to consider, which will allow opponents of the ordinance to present evidence that supports lifting the ban.

Trial and appeals courts had previously thrown out their challenges.

Cook County has outlawed the sale or possession of guns with large-capacity magazine or assault weapons since 1993, an ordinance that has been repeatedly extended by trial and appeals courts, the Associated Press reports. Attorneys recently challenged the ordinance, citing a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that ended the ban on handgun possession in Chicago and Oak Park.

Gun rights advocates are arguing that the county's restrictions aren't clearly defined, and include high-capacity, fast-firing weapons and guns with protruding grips, classifications that rule out some of the most popular hunting guns across the country, CBS Chicago reports. The plaintiffs also point to erroneous statistics cited by the Cook County Board when drafting the ordinance in 1993 that inflated the frequency with which assault weapons are used in gun crimes.

Supporters of the ordinance say constitutional challenges don't apply in this case, and that the risks of assault weapon ownership and distribution in the county outweigh recreational benefits.