FOLLOWING CONTENT POSTED: JAN. 24, 2023
Last week, an Illinois county court approved a temporary restraining order (TRO) to block the state’s assault weapons ban from being enforced against the more than 1,500 plaintiffs who filed a legal challenge to the recently enacted law.
In the Jan. 20 order, Effingham County Judge Joshua Morrison agreed that lawmakers failed to follow legislative procedure and consider the constitutionality of the new law when they wrote it. “[D]ue to the speed with which this bill was passed, the effect to protected classes could not have been considered, nor could the Legislature have studied if this was the least restrictive way to meet their goal,” Morrison wrote in the order.
State lawmakers wrote and passed the law in about six months. They prioritized it following the mass shooting in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park on July 4. Then they finalized the bill at the beginning of 2023 and the governor signed it on Jan. 10.
The Protect Illinois Communities Act expands the state’s gun laws to prohibit the sale of magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds and any firearm that meets the definition of an “assault weapon.” The law defines the term as a semi-automatic firearm with a detachable magazine and at least one other specific feature.
In response to the TRO, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker issued a statement calling the ruling “disappointing” but “not surprising” to hear. “[I]t is the initial result we’ve seen in many cases brought by plaintiffs whose goal is to advance ideology over public safety,” he said.
“We are well aware that this is only the first step in defending this important legislation,” Pritzker added. “I remain confident that the courts will uphold the constitutionality of Illinois’ law, which aligns with the eight other states with similar laws and was written in collaboration with lawmakers, advocates, and legal experts.”
The lawsuit was spearheaded by former gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey and represented by former Illinois attorney general candidate Thomas DeVore. In a statement, DeVore called it “an honor of my lifetime to play a role in representing the People against tyranny.” He predicts the case will be heard in front of the Illinois Supreme Court if not the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Effingham County case is the second legal challenge filed against the new gun law. The other was a federal case headed by the Illinois State Rifle Association and a handful of others.
In the state case, the court has scheduled a hearing for Feb. 1 and DeVore has requested an emergency hearing in a second lawsuit, but no hearings have been scheduled yet in the federal case.
FOLLOWING CONTENT POSTED: JAN. 19, 2023
Update: Illinois Assault Weapon Ban Challenged in Federal Court
A group of gun rights activists filed the first federal legal challenge to the recently enacted Illinois assault weapons ban, arguing that the new law violates constitutional rights and prohibits commonly owned guns and magazines.
The plaintiffs say that the state law fails to meet the legal standards established by Supreme Court decisions New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen and District of Columbia v. Heller, according to the Jan. 17 complaint filed in a federal court in southern Illinois.
They argue the Bruen decision requires governments to be “consistent with the nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation” and allows individual conduct that aligns with the Second Amendment. They claim the Heller decision only allows governments to ban firearms that are “both dangerous and unusual.”
“By prohibiting Plaintiffs from possessing and carrying popular semiautomatic firearms and common ammunition magazines, Illinois has prevented them from ‘keeping and bearing Arms’ within the meaning of the (Second) Amendment’s text,” the lawsuit says.
Plaintiffs & Defendants
The plaintiffs in the case include the Illinois State Rifle Association; national gun groups the Second Amendment Foundation and the Firearms Policy Coalition; two state gun stores; and the lead plaintiff, Dane Harrel.
Harrel is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and ISRA member residing in St. Clair County, Illinois, according to the complaint. The lawsuit argues that the state’s new gun law will prevent him from buying the firearms he wants and replacing firearms and magazines he already owns.
Representing the group is attorney David Sigale. He has worked on several successful Illinois gun cases for the ISRA and SAF, including the Supreme Court case McDonald v. City of Chicago, a decision that overturned the city’s ban on handguns.
The complaint lists eight defendants, which include Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly. The remaining six are officials at the county level, including state attorneys and sheriffs.
Responses in the State
The lawsuit comes about a week after the law went into effect. Illinois State Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the Protect Illinois Communities Act on Jan. 11, saying he and his political allies created “the strongest and most effective gun violence legislation” they could.
The new law defines an “assault weapon” as “a semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that can accept a detachable magazine” and has at least one of several features listed in the statute. It also bans long gun magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds, and handgun magazines are limited to 15 rounds.
Since Illinois became the ninth state to implement an assault weapons ban, reactions have split along party lines. Republican lawmakers and a majority of Illinois sheriffs — including the three named as defendants — have reportedly said they disagree with the law and won’t enforce it.
Although the court has upheld multiple assault weapon bans, including at the local level in Illinois, legal scholars think the courts may side with pro-gun groups this time around.
UCLA law professor and author of the book Gun Fight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America Adam Winkler told the Chicago Tribune that the 2022 Bruen decision makes it much more difficult for states to regulate guns purchased for home or self-defense.
In the Bruen decision, the Supreme Court ruled that law-abiding citizens do not need to show cause to exercise their gun rights in public. The decision also said any restrictions on gun ownership must align with laws that existed when the U.S. Constitution was drafted to be considered constitutional.
No trial dates have been scheduled yet, but the state has 21 days to respond to the complaint, which puts the deadline somewhere around mid-February.
FOLLOWING CONTENT POSTED: JAN. 11, 2023
Illinois Assault Weapons Ban: What’s In The New Law
- Many popular firearms banned from sale
- Rifle mags limited to 10 rounds
- Pistol mags limited to 15 rounds
- Law mirrors the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban
On Wednesday, Jan. 11, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed an Illinois assault weapons ban into law that, effective immediately, prohibits the sale and distribution of “assault weapons” and “high-capacity magazines” as defined by the new legislation. Gun owners who want to keep newly banned firearms must register them with the state well before the year is up.
Pritzker explained in a statement that his administration had been trying to craft “the strongest and most effective gun violence legislation” they possibly could, which resulted in the Protect Illinois Communities Act.
“I couldn’t be prouder to say that we got it done. And we will keep fighting — bill by bill, vote by vote, and protest by protest — to ensure that future generations only hear about massacres like Highland Park, Sandy Hook, and Uvalde in their textbooks,” he said.
According to the new state law, a firearm is considered an “assault weapon” in Illinois if it is “a semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that can accept a detachable magazine” and has at least one of a number of features listed in the legislation. That offending feature could be a folding stock, pistol grip, forward grip, muzzle device, grenade launcher, or others.
The law also specifically prohibits a number of firearms by name and defines “assault pistols” and “assault weapon attachments” as well.
Residents who already own firearms now considered “assault weapons” and wish to keep them have 300 days to register those firearms with the state police.
If some of this sounds familiar, it’s because the legislation was based on the Federal Assault Weapons Ban passed in 1994, which included a similar list of prohibited features. Other states have also created such a list in their gun-control laws. The federal ban expired in 2004.
In addition to banning assault weapons and mags, the new Illinois law imposes a number of other restrictions and rules, too. It will require “certain gun transfers” after July 1, 2023, to be filed with a federally licensed firearms dealer (FFL), though what that actually means is murky based on the text of the bill.
What the ‘Protect Illinois Communities Act’ Does:
- Prohibits the sale and distribution of firearms that fit the definition of “assault weapon.”
- Requires gun owners to register all assault weapons with state police within 300 days; unregistered possession is a Class 3 felony on the first offense.
- Prohibits the manufacture, delivery, sale, purchase, or possession of a detachable rifle magazine with a capacity larger than 10 rounds. Pistol magazines are limited to 15 rounds. A violation is a Class 3 felony on the first offense.
- Prohibits “switches,” or kits that can convert a pistol into an assault weapon (although “switch” is not defined in the law).
- Prohibits a list of specific firearms by name.
- Allows a state attorney or assistant state attorney to assist the petitioner in requesting a firearm. restraining order. Also, extends a firearms restraining order from six months to one year.
- Bans bump stocks.
Responses to the Illinois Assault Weapons Ban
While many news reports point out that the measure was signed about six months after a deadly mass shooting in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, lawmakers filed the bill in January 2022, and it has been working its way through both the state house and senate. It finally made its way to the governor’s desk on Jan. 10, 2023; it was signed the next day.
Gun control groups largely supported the new law, calling it a “lifesaving package” and “a major step in better-protecting families and communities.” Second Amendment advocates, on the other hand, were critical of the bill throughout the legislative process and promised legal action after it passed the state senate.
In a statement, the House Republican Leader-elect Tony McCombie argued the new law bans firearms with “little and, often, no linkage” to the mass violence that makes headlines. She called it a “poorly written piece of legislation” that “will likely be found unconstitutional.”
“House Democrats are throwing the state into chaos for law-abiding residents for the second time in the past month, beginning with the elimination of cash bail, and now with an immediate lame-duck gun ban of dozens of commonly used firearms,” McCombie said.
Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, said that gun rights supporters were largely excluded from crafting the bill during an interview with WGN.
“They didn’t want us in there because they wanted to concoct an all-encompassing firearms bill that would take everything they could possibly get in one sweep,” he said.
He explained that with the breadth of the new law, gun owners will have a difficult time meeting all the legal requirements. Therefore, he predicts the law “will not hold constitutional muster” because it’s “a primary civil right. It’s in the Bill of Rights.”