Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker seems to be channeling his inner Joe Biden in his defense of the state’s ban on so-called assault weapons and “large capacity” magazines. Biden has famously (and erroneously) proclaimed that while the Second Amendment may protect muskets, it never allowed citizens to own cannons; a statement that’s been thoroughly debunked on multiple occasions yet still emerges from Biden’s mouth on a regular basis.
The thrust of Biden’s argument, factually deficient though it may be, is that the Second Amendment doesn’t protect the right to keep and bear any and all arms, and Pritzker is now piggybacking on the president’s pontifications with a ludicrous comparison of his own.
“We’ve banned assault weapons. We’ve banned high capacity magazines. We’ve banned switches that turn regular guns into automatic weapons and here in Illinois those are things that will keep people safe and alive, but we need a national ban,” Pritzker said.
The White House Wednesday highlighted Illinois’ law as what the Biden administration would like to see nationwide.
To the consolidated lawsuit challenging the state’s gun and magazine ban, Pritzker said he’s “heartened” after last week’s hearing in the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. The governor cited some of the judges’ questions focused on whether the issue is a “popularity contest which guns we’re going to allow.”
“Because the people who were advocating for semi-automatic weapons were saying ‘well gee, everybodies got one now, so you can’t ban them.’ Well that’s ridiculous,” Pritzker said. “If everyone had a missile launcher, we shouldn’t ban missile launchers?”
I confess that I’m not up to speed on the legality of owning missile launchers, but it’s perfectly legal to own a grenade launcher… as long as you’re willing to register it under the NFA and pay a $200 tax stamp. But as long as missile launchers cost millions of dollars, I don’t think Pritzker has to worry about a Patriot missile system being erected by a private citizen in Chicago or Joliet. We’re not talking about exotic weapon systems that will never be in common use for self-defense, we’re talking about commonly-owned rifles lawfully possessed by tens of millions of Americans for hunting, recreation, self-defense, and other lawful activities.
Todd Vandermyde, who’s consulting plaintiffs in the challenge to Illinois’ ban, said more gun control won’t make the streets safer. He said the governor’s other policies are “an abject failure.”
“They don’t go after the criminals. ‘Oh no, we’re going to give them electric home monitoring. Oh no, we’re going to let them go out for 48 hours. Oh no, we’re not going to require cash bail,’” Vandermyde told The Center Square, referring to the state’s latest changes to the criminal justice system.
Vandermyde said the case isn’t about missile launchers.
“They just keep jumping to the absurd that if you allow rifles, shotguns and pistols then you have to allow all this other stuff. And nobody is arguing [that], that’s not even before the court in any way,” Vandermyde said.
Vandermyde’s correct in noting that this argument is more useful to politicians than to the attorneys defending the state’s ban, but Attorney General Kwame Raoul is deploying a similar argument that’s equally absurd. As the Chicago Sun-Times reported back in March:
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul on Thursday filed a brief defending Illinois’ assault weapon ban, arguing the weapons restricted by the newly enacted law aren’t commonly used for self-defense and that large capacity magazines are accessories — not “arms.”
It also argues the country’s founding fathers owned guns that could only fire a single shot before reloading — proving assault weapons and large capacity magazines weren’t in “common use” when the Constitution was ratified.
“The assault weapons restricted by the Act are not commonly used for self-defense; by design and in practice, they exist for offensive infliction of mass casualties,” the brief states.
It also argues the term “arms” refers to weapons and not “accessories,” and that large capacity magazines are therefore not protected under the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms.
The Supreme Court has already stated that arms that are in common use today are protected by the Second Amendment, not just those arms that were around at the time the Bill of Rights was ratified. In Caetano v. Massachusetts , a unanimous Supreme Court ruled that stun guns and other electronic weapons fall under the scope of the Second Amendment, pointing out that in Heller the justices determined that “the Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding.”
Note that the Supreme Court specifically referred to “bearable arms”, which negates Pritzker’s hamhanded comparison of missile launchers to AR-15s. But if the courts were to accept Raoul’s argument, then what’s stopping them from concluding that all semi-automatic firearms, including handguns, fall outside the Second Amendment’s protections? We may soon find out, because based on the makeup of the Seventh Circuit panel that recently heard oral arguments in the Illinois gun ban cases I’m not all that optimistic that the appeals court will follow Supreme Court precedent and the Bruen test to their logical conclusions; modern sporting rifles are indeed in common use for a variety of lawful purposes, and are therefore covered by the Second Amendment’s guarantee of our right to keep and bear arms.