While Illinois’ newly-imposed ban on so-called assault weapons and “large capacity” magazines has drawn the ire and objections from gun owners, firearm retailers, and the vast majority of sheriffs (along with many state’s attorneys) in the state, so far, it hasn’t been challenged in court. That’s a matter of “when,” not “if,” however, and a new coalition of 2A groups and advocates have announced they’re putting together an All-Star legal team to file suit in federal court.
The Illinois Gun Rights Alliance is comprised of the Federal Firearms Licensees of Illinois, Aurora Sportsmen’s Club, Guns Save Life, Gun Owners of America, and the State Line Rifle Association, and, according to the organization’s website, the various entities decided to band together because “[w]hen the Illinois General Assembly passed HB5471, and the governor signed it the same day, they proved that no restriction would ever be enough for them.”
In an accompanying press release, the ILGRA announced the formation of its legal team to take on the new ban, headed up by Second Amendment attorney (and California Rifle & Pistol Association president and general counsel) C.D. “Chuck” Michel along with local counsel Mark Shaw and Mike Danforth; two Illinois attorneys with “a combined half-century’s worth of experience in litigating firearms law” both in state and federal court. I’m not all that familiar with Shaw and Danforth, but I’ve been covering Michel’s Second Amendment litigation for close to two decades, and he’s a great pick to head up the lawsuit, particularly given his experience litigating similar bans in California.
While the new coalition is gearing up to challenge the law in federal court, it’s also pushing back in the court of public opinion.
“All people of good will certainly want to see an end to criminal violence,” said coalition spokesman Mandi Sano. “But expecting lawful citizens to pay penance for the misdeeds of others is not the solution. This new law is divisive, unenforceable, and offers dubious efficacy as a crime-fighting tool. The coalition plans a vigorous legal challenge to this dangerous infringement on the rights of the lawful citizen. When all is said and done, we hope to steer the legislature’s focus back to the true cause of violent crime – the unbridled thug.”
“Illinois has become the latest state where a simple legislative majority has jammed outright tyranny down the throats of their citizens,” said Erich Pratt Senior Vice President, Gun Owners of America. “This unconstitutional ban has drawn the ire of sheriffs and states attorneys across the state, with many pledging to simply not even enforce the law. GOA and GOF are excited to get involved in this case, and we look forward to forcing the anti-gunners, many of whom are from Chicago, to bend the knee to the Bruen decision.”
Meanwhile, even Chicago’s biggest papers are starting to warn readers that the new ban might not fare well in court thanks to the text, history, and tradition test laid out by SCOTUS in Bruen. Although, the lawmakers who drafted the ban laughably claim they wrote the bill with a legal challenge in mind.
Legal challenges to bans in California and Maryland are pending before federal appeals courts and would be the most likely ones to be heard by the Supreme Court, according to Andrew Willinger, executive director of the Duke Center for Firearms Law.
Willinger said he thinks a Supreme Court vote on the constitutionality of assault weapons bans would be “a close one.”“It seems highly likely there would be justices inclined to strike down” an assault weapons ban, Ruben said. “Whether there are five” — the number needed for the necessary majority — “is another question.”
In a Jan. 6 story in The Washington Post, Adam Winkler, a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law, said, “There’s at least a decent chance that the [Illinois] law will be struck down.
“The constitutional interpretation of the Second Amendment, of course, loomed large in the drafting of this legislation,” state Rep. Bob Morgan, D-Deerfield, said at Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s bill-signing ceremony Tuesday night.
“Both chambers took that very seriously,” Morgan said. “We have to make sure that we’re passing laws that will withstand scrutiny. So we took those things into account. And, of course, there are a lot of legal threats that came, and we look forward to being able to take our arguments to court.”
If you believe that, I have a skyscraper in Chicago I’m willing to sell you for pennies on the dollar. While it’s true that the Illinois bill was modified during the rushed legislative process and a few onerous provisions were removed (banning under-21s from keeping and bearing arms, for example), what remains is still a flagrant violation of the Second Amendment. The guns and magazines prohibited under the Illinois law are in common use for lawful purposes from self-defense to hunting to competitive shooting and should, therefore, be protected by the text of the Second Amendment. Since the historical record doesn’t show any widespread or longstanding analogous bans on arms like revolvers or lever-action rifles despite the enormous advances they represented in terms of capacity, rate-of-fire, and accuracy, I think it’s fair to say that the modern bans on so-called assault weapons and “large capacity” magazines fall outside the scope of constitutionally-permitted regulations and cross over into infringement territory.
Like Morgan, I, too, am looking forward to both sides being able to take their arguments in court. I predict it will ultimately go about as well for the gun prohibitionists as their current attempt to enforce the ban over the objections of most Illinois sheriffs and many prosecutors. Second Amendment advocates don’t just have the support of most sheriffs, many prosecutors, and millions of Illinois gun owners in our corner. We have the Constitution and history on our side as well, and that should win the day before any fair-minded judge who’s given the chance to halt enforcement when the time comes.