Illinois judge delivers win for gun owners, grants TRO in "assault weapons", magazine ban

Illinois judge delivers win for gun owners, grants TRO in "assault weapons", magazine ban
AP Photo/Andrew Selsky, File

A judge in Effingham County, Illinois is the first to weigh on the state’s new ban on “assault weapons” and “large capacity” magazines, and it’s good news for Second Amendment supporters. Judge Joshua Morrison was asked to grant a temporary restraining order as the law applies to the more than 850 plaintiffs based primarily on how the law was passed, with plaintiffs arguing that the state legislature violated several laws of their own by rushing to enact the law before the end of the lame-duck session earlier this month in addition to making a case that the law violates the equal protection clause of the state’s constitution.

Late on Friday afternoon, Morrison issued his ruling, and agreed with the plaintiffs and their attorney Thomas DeVore, or at least decided their arguments are likely to prevail at trial. And if the law remains enforceable against the hundreds of county residents bringing the lawsuit, even for the time being, Morrison believes there’s a very good chance that their rights will be irreparably harmed.

“Plaintiffs are being immediately and irreparably harmed each day in which their fundamental right to bear arms is being denied and that this harm is continuing in nature,” Morrison wrote, elaborating that the new ban not only harms gun owners but firearms retailers, who may be “restrict[ed in] their ability to pursue their current profession.”

The judge believes that DeVore’s argument that the state violated its own “single subject” rule is likely to win on the merits, pointing out that the “Protect Illinois Communities Act” doesn’t just confine itself to firearms and magazines, but also has an item related to drug and human trafficking. Additionally, Morrison notes that the bill’s short description of the bill refers to it as dealing with “Insurance Code – Private Adjusters”, because that’s what the legislation was originally about before lawmakers gutted it and replaced it with their gun and magazine ban language in an attempt to speed it through the lame-duck session of the legislature.

While DeVore made the process challenge the crux of his argument, he did raise equal protection claims, and Morrison believes the plaintiffs have a strong case there as well. The gun and magazine ban includes a carveout for those who can, in essence, show “good cause” to possess them; something that the Effingham County judge says looks a lot like the “good cause” standard for concealed carry that the Supreme Court rejected in NYSRPA v. Bruen.

“The Court cannot find it logical that the warden of a prison (included in the exempted persons category) is necessarily better trained or more experienced in the handling of weapons than retired military personnel (not included in the exempted persons category). It also does not follow that a member of the National Guard would be less trained or experienced in handling a firearm when they are not on active duty compared to when they are. Further, other rational and logical exemptions have been excluded, such as a person in a wheelchair who cannot use a shotgun due to recoil concerns, thus discriminating against a protected class.”

One big caveat to Morrison’s ruling: it does NOT have the force of law throughout the entire state, or even all of Effingham County. The new law cannot be enforced against the 860-or-so plaintiffs at the moment, but that’s it.

Still, it’s a great start to the avalanche of litigation headed Illinois’ way. While Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul will appeal Morrison’s decision, the TRO will remain in effect for the time being, and next week could bring the first hearing taking on the law in federal court. This is just the beginning of a lengthy legal process, but it’s always nice to start with a win.