Is Illinois' gun and magazine ban on hold? Depends on who you ask.

Is Illinois' gun and magazine ban on hold? Depends on who you ask.
Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP, Pool

According to Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Attorney General Kwame Raoul, the only Illinois residents exempt from the state’s newly-imposed ban on “large capacity” magazines and “assault weapons” are those named plaintiffs in several state-based lawsuits who’ve been able to secure an injunction against enforcement of the new law. But Second Amendment advocates say that last Friday’s ruling by a judge in Macon County actually applies statewide, and argue that the governor and attorney general are sowing confusion with their claims to the contrary.

Advertisement

So far, the Illinois State Police haven’t said whether they’re continuing to enforce the law’s provisions banning possession of “large capacity” magazines or the sale of modern sporting rifles, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Pritzker and Raoul try to keep quiet for as long as they can given that the Illinois State Supreme Court has agreed to expedite the appeal of the Macon County judge’s decision.

Passage of the law prompted immediate legal challenges in both state and federal courts by gun rights advocates who said it violated both the Illinois and U.S. constitutions.

One of those suits was filed by a group of plaintiffs led by Republican state Rep. Dan Caulkins, of Decatur.

On March 3, Judge Rodney S. Forbes ruled that the exceptions to the assault weapons ban violate the equal protection clause in the Illinois Constitution as well as the “special legislation” clause that prohibits the General Assembly from passing “a special or local law when a general law can be made applicable.

“We look forward to vigorously defending this final judgment by Judge Forbes,” Caulkins said at a news conference Wednesday. “We believe that we have the facts on our side.”

That decision, the judge wrote, was based on a 5th District Court of Appeals ruling in another case in which an Effingham County judge had granted a temporary restraining order to block enforcement of the ban. That order, however, applied only to the roughly 800 plaintiffs who were named in the case.

That case, Accuracy Firearms LLC v. Pritzker, also is on appeal before the Supreme Court.

Advertisement

The state Supreme Court says it will take up Caulkins lawsuit in May, and I don’t think the governor or the state police can stay silent on whether the law is being enforced despite Judge Forbes’s ruling until then, but I’m sure they’ll try to keep the status quo as confusing as possible in the meantime.

While the state Supreme Court won’t consider the constitutionality of the new ban for another couple of months, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals is the next stop for one of the federal lawsuits filed in the wake of the bill being signed into law. Naperville, Illinois gun store owner Robert Bevis filed his appeal with the Seventh Circuit late on Tuesday, asking the court to overturn the decision by U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall denying an injunction to halt enforcement of the gun and magazine prohibitions.

The case appears to be the first to challenge the Illinois ban to the federal appellate court. The appeals court could side with Kendall or block the measure, which was signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Jan. 10 and immediately banned the sale of military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines.

Kendall ruled last month that, “because assault weapons are particularly dangerous weapons … their regulation accords with history and tradition.”

Bevis’ lawyers argue that Kendall’s ruling is wrong, that, under previous Supreme Court rulings, weapons must be found to be “dangerous and unusual” to be banned.

“An arm that is commonly possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes is, by definition, not unusual,” they wrote in their court filing Tuesday. “Thus, such an arm cannot be both dangerous and unusual and therefore it cannot be subjected to a categorical ban.”

They told the 7th Circuit the matter “is not a close case.”

Advertisement

We’re probably a couple of weeks away from a hearing on the injunction request, much less a decision by a three judge panel of the Seventh Circuit, but things are still moving fairly quickly all things considered. We also have a hearing scheduled for next month in the four other federal lawsuits, which have been consolidated into one case. U.S. District Judge Stephen McGlynn is set to hear oral arguments on the plaintiffs’ request for an injunction on April 12th, so there are a lot of moving pieces when it comes to the ban’s future in addition to the widespread confusion over the law’s current status.

Join the conversation as a VIP Member