What Are The Chances Of Gun Rights Activist Winning In Case Against Deerfield, IL?

A lot of us are paying an awful lot of attention to a tiny spec on the Illinois state map. Yes, I’m one of them, and we’re not paying attention to that dot on the paper for no good reason. In fact, a lot is going on in that simple case. There are also a whole lot of angles at work here.

Further, I’m not a legal mind by any stretch of the imagination. I’m a guy who bangs away at a keyboard about guns and politics for a living, which means I need a breadth of knowledge, but being an expert on any one topic is probably not in the cards for me. Luckily, there are legal experts out there who are willing to opine on stuff like this for me.

Over at Reason’s Volokh Conspiracy, we learn a little bit more about the case against Deerfield, including precedences that might be useful in the case.

There’s one big hole that I’ve completely missed in my discussion of the topic, too.

Yesterday a firearm and magazine confiscation ordinance in the Chicago suburb of Deerfield was blocked on by a temporary restraining order. The Lake County Circuit Court held that the ordinance violates a state preemption statute. The court’s opinion is attached to this post.

Statute and ordinance background: In 2013, Deerfield enacted an ordinance regulating the storage and transportation of so-called “assault weapons” and “high capacity” magazines. The municipal ordinance was in contemplation of imminent passage of an Illinois state statute preempting such laws. The Illinois statute is 430 ILCS 65/13.1. It declares: “the regulation of the possession or ownership of assault weapons are exclusive powers and functions of this State.” Any local ordinance or regulation that “purports” to regulate the ownership or possession of such arms in a manner inconsistent with state law is void. Since Illinois does not prohibit the ownership of “assault weapons,” no local government may do so. The state statute defines “assault weapons” as “firearms designated by either make or model or by a test or list cosmetic features that cumulatively would place the firearm into a definition of ‘assault weapon’ under the ordinance.”

However, the preemption statute includes a grandfather clause. Local laws enacted before the preemption statute’s effective date (or within 10 days after the effective date) may continue in force. Grandfathered ordinances “may be amended.”

In April 2018, Deerfield substantially changed its 2013 ordinance. The new law changed the definition of “assault weapon,” and prohibited possession, transportation, bearing, and sale. Residents who had been in lawful possession of such arms had until June 13 to surrender them to the Chief of Police or otherwise remove them from the village. The penalty for non-compliance was a fine of $1,000 per day. In addition, the Deerfield ordinance, as interpretted by the Deerfield government, similarly prohibited the possession of any “Large Capacity Magazine.” This was defined as magazines over 10 rounds, such as the 13 or 17 round magazines that are the manufacturer-supplied standard magazines for many of the most common handguns.

That’s right, Illinois has a preemption clause in state law.

Honestly, they were the last state I expected to have one, but there we go.

Clear-cut, right? Well, Deerfield is arguing that it simply changed its pre-existing law. Since the previous law only dealt with the transportation and storage of guns, though, I don’t think that argument is going to fly.

I urge you to go and read the whole post. There are a lot of interesting points to consider, and this isn’t from an anti-gun attorney either, so keep that in mind. It should also be noted that not everything described is a clear win for our side on this one, either. There are some arguments being made that may well be struck down based on precedent.

That said, the preemption alone is probably enough to strike down the Deerfield ban.

Here’s hoping.

Hat tip: The Truth About Guns

May 16, 2021 11:30 AM ET
May 16, 2021 8:30 AM ET