The decision by U.S. District Judge Stephen McGlynn isn’t exactly unexpected. In fact, he hinted that he was inclined to deny the request during a hearing earlier this month. But today’s order does come with a silver lining for gun owners and the plaintiffs who are challenging the state’s ban on so-called assault weapons and large capacity magazines, as well as its requirement that existing owners register their prohibited firearms with the state by January 1, 2024.
In his decision, McGlynn made it clear that he still has grave concerns about the constitutionality of the Protect Illinois Communities Act and the “emergency” rules that are in the process of being promulgated by the Illinois State Police and the Illinois Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, and one of the reasons McGlynn gave for not issuing an injunction now is that it could delay giving gun owners the relief they’re asking for.
The deadline for registration is steeply upon us. Enjoining only the registration requirement for attachments and parts but not firearms would likely lead to more confusion than clarity. It may also create further delays in this litigation when the constitutional rights of the citizens demand an expeditious resolution on the merits.
Neither the legislative branch, the executive branch, nor the judicial branch may change the fundamental relationship between citizens and government. Government exists to serve us, not lord over us. The Constitution places limits on government’s power while guaranteeing freedom and liberty to the People. The Second Amendment guarantees are fundamental and belong to the citizens. The Second Amendment acknowledges a right of the People, not a license to be issued or denied by the government as it sees fit.
That’s not exactly what you’d expect to see from a judge who believes that the gun and magazine ban lies well within the national tradition of the right to keep and bear arms.
McGlynn also suggests that compliance (or the lack thereof) with the state’s registration mandate will play a role in any future rulings on the plaintiffs’ argument that the requirement violates their Second Amendment rights.
This Court will expeditiously conduct a full review of the legal challenges to PICA on the merits. This also points toward foregoing further preliminary wrangling and going straight to an exhaustive review of PICA and the Emergency Rules on the merits. Additionally, Illinois FOID cardholders’ level of compliance with the registration scheme will be discernible within mere days. This overall level of compliance will likely be highly relevant to the review of certain claims on the merits.
I won’t say that McGlynn is encouraging gun owners to defy the registration mandate, but it does seem like he’s indicating that widespread civil disobedience to the state’s edict could ultimately weigh in favor of the plaintiffs here.
According to the latest figures from the state police, a little more than 8,000 Illinois gun owners have registered their so-called assault weapons with the state; less than 1 percent of all FOID card holders in the state. Of course, not every person who has a valid FOID card owns one of these prohibited firearms, but if we don’t see a sharp increase in registrations over the coming week I think it’ll be fair to say that many gun owners are choosing not to comply with a requirement they believe is unconstitutional.
In the short term, McGlynn’s decision isn’t great news for gun owners, because it means that the registration mandate will take effect on January 1. But McGlynn, who did issue a previous injunction against the law only to have it stayed by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, still sounds extremely skeptical that the entirety of the Protect Illinois Communities Act will withstand Second Amendment scrutiny when the case has been fully briefed and oral arguments have taken place. The plaintiffs may have lost this round in court, but based on the language of today’s order I think they’re still likely to emerge victorious when McGlynn issues his final decision on the constitutionality of the law… which will hopefully happen as expeditiously as he’s promised.