During the brief period of time that U.S. District Judge Stephen McGlynn’s injunction against Illinois’ ban on so-called assault weapons and large capacity magazine was in effect for a few days in late April and early May, gun stores across the state were packed with customers hoping to get their hands on a modern sporting rifle or 20-round magazine, and there were likely thousands of rifles that were lawfully purchased while they were back in stock.
Now, however, the Illinois State Police is warning those gun owners that their purchases will become illegal on January 1st of next year; an admonition that Second Amendment activists say will lead to a new legal battle encompassing both the Second and Fifth Amendment rights of Illinois residents.
After the injunction was reversed while lawsuits continue, state police said firearms purchased during the injunction will be illegal because they were possessed after the Jan. 10 effective day of the Protect Illinois Communities Act.
“Persons who possess a banned firearm or firearm attachment are required to endorse an affidavit by January 1, 2024, stating that any banned firearm or firearm attachments were possessed prior to the enactment of PICA (January 10, 2023) pursuant to 720 ILCS 5/24-1.9(d),” a public information officer with Illinois State Police told The Center Square in an email.
Penalties for possession of banned magazines is a petty offense with a $1,000 fine per infraction. Possession of prohibited firearms could be up to a Class 2 felony.
Thomas Maag was the first attorney to file a lawsuit challenging the law a week after it was enacted in January. He challenged the law on both Second Amendment and Fifth Amendment grounds protecting against self-incrimination. Arguments against the registry were put on hold when his case was consolidated with other plaintiffs groups in the Southern District.
“I think that these statements from the Illinois State Police are exactly the kind of thing that shows the Fifth Amendment arguments need to be brought to a head sooner rather than later,” Maag told The Center Square. A registry “puts those persons at risk of the state taking that exact information and using it against the owners of those firearms to try to obtain a criminal conviction for what have you, including but not limited to persons that may have acquired firearms during this six-day window.”
Illinois State Rifle Association Executive Director Richard Pearson said the ISP statement is yet another issue that the courts will have to address.
“Because the way I read it and the way almost everyone else read it was that [Southern District of Illinois Judge Stephen McGlynn] said the injunction stopped all that,” Pearson told WMAY. “So I believe there’s going to be another suit that deals with this.”
If the ISP doesn’t back down from its ridiculous position, there better be another lawsuit that specifically challenges their edit. There was nothing in McGlynn’s order granting the injunction that allows for the state to retroactively enforce the law against those who purchased a modern sporting rifle or “large capacity” magazine while it was on hold. That’s the whole point of an injunction; to prevent the law from being enforced because of the harm done to the rights of residents if it were allowed to remain in place. McGlynn’s injunction may have been halted by a Seventh Circuit appellate judge, but that doesn’t make the injunction meaningless while it was in effect.
Of course, this will all be moot if the Supreme Court steps in an grants an injunction of its own against the Illinois law, and while that would be a pretty unusual step at this early stage of litigation it’s also out of the ordinary for a state police agency to claim that legal gun sales are actually unlawful and subject to prosecution.
In its own way the ISP is actually helping to make the case that Illinois residents will be irreparably harmed if the law remains on the books, and I hope that the justices are paying attention not only to the latest legal briefs on the ban, but how the state plans to enforce the law going forward. The state of Illinois and the city of Naperville submitted their defense of the ban on “assault weapons” and “large capacity” magazines to Justice Amy Coney Barrett on Monday afternoon, and we shouldn’t have to wait too long to learn what SCOTUS will do with the request for an emergency injunction. The odds may be against immediate intervention, given that the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has yet to formally weigh in, but the harm facing legal gun owners in Illinois is substantial enough that extraordinary remedies are appropriate in order to protect their right to keep and bear arms.. and help them avoid prison simply for purchasing a gun when a federal judge said they could.