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Supreme Court rules on states' assault weapons ban

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court has rejected challenges to assault weapons bans in Connecticut and New York, in the aftermath of the shooting attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that left 50 people dead.

The justices on Monday left in place a lower court ruling that upheld laws that were passed in response to another mass shooting involving a semi-automatic weapon, the elementary school attack in Newtown, Connecticut.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly turned away challenges to gun restrictions since two landmark decisions that spelled out the right to a handgun to defend one's own home.

CBS News correspondent Jan Crawford reports that in 2008 the Supreme Court struck down a handgun ban in the District of Columbia, ruling that the Second Amendment protects a person's right to bear arms for self-defense in the home.

But in the years since, lower federal courts have narrowly applied the landmark decision-allowing what they consider reasonable gun restrictions -- bans on large capacity semiautomatic firearms, like the commonly owned AR-15.

In December, less than a month after a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia dissented when the court refused to hear an appeal to overturn a Chicago suburb's ban on assault weapons. Scalia died in February.

Justice Thomas said the Chicago appeals court ruling "flouts two of our Second Amendment precedents." Without mentioning any mass shootings in California and elsewhere that involved semi-automatic guns, Thomas said the weapons ban "is highly suspect because it broadly prohibits common semi-automatic firearms used for lawful purposes" by roughly five million Americans.

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

Seven states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws banning assault weapons. The others are California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. In addition, Minnesota and Virginia regulate assault weapons, the center said.

Connecticut and New York enacted bans on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines in response to the December 2012 massacre of 20 children and six educators at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The gunman, Adam Lanza, shot and killed his mother before driving to the school where he gunned down the victims with a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle. Lanza then killed himself.

In Orlando, gunman Omar Mateen used a Sig Sauer MCX semi-automatic rifle and a pistol during the attack at Pulse nightclub. Mateen was killed in a shootout with police after killing 49 others.