Illinois Democrats gearing up for a gun ban?

AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane

Even as we’re seeing lawsuits filed left and right over the constitutionality of bans on modern sporting rifles, Illinois Democrats appear ready to pass a ban of their own in the wake of the mass shooting in Highland Park on the 4th of July.

State Rep. Maura Hirschauer’s proposed ban was first introduced back in January with little fanfare and few co-sponsors, but since the Highland Park shooting dozens of House Democrats have been adding their name to the legislation, with at least 51 of the chamber’s 73 Democrats now on board. That’s still not a majority, but with Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker also calling for a ban on the most commonly-sold rifle in the country, it’s likely that the state legislature will be called back for a special session on gun control and abortion ahead of November’s elections.

What they’re saying: “I am enraged by the gun free-for-all that’s killing our children, our seniors and everyone in between,” Democratic State Sen. Julie Morrison said in a release. “The only way we can end this crisis is for our state and federal government to pass the laws that we’ve all been demanding. Until that happens, we are not safe anywhere.”

  • “There are weapons of war on our streets that people can legally obtain and then take out dozens of people,” Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering said on the “Today” show Tuesday.
  • The Gun Violence Prevention PAC is calling on the legislature to “act quickly to regulate weapons of war.”

State of play: One study shows that Illinois gun laws are the eighth strictest in the country.

What’s more: Illinois’ current concealed-carry law prohibits municipalities from enacting their own assault weapons ban. That could change.

That last bit from Axios is interesting, as it suggests that Illinois Democrats might try to move to undo the state’s firearm preemption law and allow for political subdivisions to pass their own bans instead of using a special session to impose similar ban statewide. That’s what Colorado Democrats did last year, and we’ve recently seen a number of Denver suburbs move to put an “assault weapons” ban in place. We’ve also seen at least one lawsuit already filed challenging the ban in the Boulder County town of Superior, Colorado.

The lawsuit focuses on that Superior ordinance –– which the gun-rights group says is unconstitutional and violates the Second Amendment –– for its banning of high-capacity magazines and semi-automatic rifles, often referred to as “assault-style” rifles, such as AR-15s.

During the passage of the ordinance, trustee Mark Lacis said the restrictions were reasonable and consistent with the Second Amendment but worried they weren’t enough.

“Every single day these tragedies continue to occur and they are no longer anomalies,” Lacis said. “They are a part of our day-to-day lives.”

But Rocky Mountain Gun Owners disagreed.

“Superior’s anti-gun ordinance flies directly in the face of our right to keep and bear arms, and we’re not going to stand idly by and let this town – or any other rogue government – trample on our right to self-defense,” said Taylor Rhodes, executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, in a statement.

… “The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that owning and carrying firearms is an individual, incorporated, and enumerated right,” Rhodes said in the statement.

“Frankly, last month’s Bruen decision gave gun rights organizations a 4-ton wrecking ball to dismantle gun laws that we have known to be unconstitutional since their conception. If you think this stops in the small town of Superior, you are mistaken,” the statement read.

Oh, it definitely won’t stop in Superior. We already have one ban on so-called assault weapon ban challenge that the Supreme Court recently remanded back to the Fourth Circuit for a re-hearing based on the Bruen decision in addition to new lawsuits being filed in blue states like New York, where the Firearms Policy Coalition is seeking to overturn that state’s prohibition on commonly-owned semi-automatic rifles.

Where this ultimately stops, of course, is at the Supreme Court, and based on what the Court had to say in Bruen I think it’s highly unlikely that it will uphold bans on modern sporting rifles. In fact, I think it’s an easy call to decide that possession of these arms is protected by the Second Amendment. They are in common use, with more than 20-million in the hands of law-abiding Americans, and are used for a variety of lawful purposes including self-defense, hunting, and competitive and recreational shooting. There’s also no historical analogue to banning an entire class of firearms like semi-automatic rifles; gun control advocates simply can’t point to any 19th Century ban on the sale or possession of the first mass-produced lever action rifles with a 14-round magazine, for instance.

Heck, for decades the U.S. government worked with the Civilian Marksmanship Program to sell surplus M1 Garands used in war to civilians, which makes the whole “battlefield weapons of war don’t belong in civilian hands” argument that we hear from the left more than a little ridiculous. Not only are semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 not used in combat, the actual semi-automatic rifles that were used by the U.S. military in World War II and the Korean War aren’t even considered “assault weapons” under most state-level AWBs.

I have no doubt that Illinois Democrats have the votes to pass their semi-auto ban if they want, but being able to enforce it is another story completely. I believe the text, history, and tradition of our Second Amendment rights takes a ban like this off the table, and we hopefully won’t have to wait long before the Supreme Court has the opportunity to officially concur by declaring these sweeping prohibitions out of line and unconstitutional.

Aug 18, 2022 5:30 PM ET