A pair of AR-15s on display at the 2023 NRA Annual Meeting
A pair of AR-15s on display at the 2023 NRA Annual Meeting / Stephen Gutowski

Federal Court Blocks Illinois ‘Assault Weapons’ Ban

Illinois can not ban the sale of AR-15s and other popular firearms.

That’s the ruling U.S. District Judge Stephen P. McGlynn handed down on Friday. He found the state’s “assault weapons” ban and ammunition magazine capacity limits likely violate the Constitution and issued a preliminary injunction preventing enforcement of the Protect Illinois Communities Act (PICA). He said it flies in the face of the Second Amendment.

“Can the senseless crimes of a relative few be so despicable to justify the infringement of the constitutional rights of law-abiding individuals in hopes that such crimes will then abate or, at least, not be as horrific?” Judge McGlynn wrote in Barnett v. Raoul. “More specifically, can PICA be harmonized with the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution and with Bruen? That is the issue before this Court. The simple answer at this stage in the proceedings is ‘likely no.'”

The ruling is another win for gun-rights advocates in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, which set a higher standard of review for gun laws. It casts new doubt on whether assault weapons bans in other states can survive scrutiny under Bruen.

PICA was passed in response to the 2022 Highland Park attack, where a shooter used an AR-15 variant to kill seven people and injure 48 more. It was only the second statewide ban on assault weapons, defined as semi-automatic centerfire guns with detachable magazines and at least one other banned feature like a pistol grip or telescoping stock, in 20 years. Washington became the third earlier this week.

“Enough is enough,” Pritzker said of the ban. “The people of this state deserve a real assault weapon ban, one that has a real accounting of weapons currently in circulation and a real chance at ceasing the flow of more weapons of war immediately.”

As in Delaware and Washington, gun-rights advocates immediately challenged the Illinois ban in state and federal court. It was blocked on constitutional grounds by a state judge in January. Now Judge McGlynn has done the same.

“There is no question that the right to armed self-defense is limited by PICA, and in some cases, may be prohibited altogether,” he wrote.

Judge McGlynn, a Trump appointee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, ruled on a consolidation of several challenges to the law. He said the ban more than just infringes on residents’ gun rights.

“PICA did not just regulate the rights of the people to defend themselves; it restricted that right, and in some cases, completely obliterated that right by criminalizing the purchase and the sale of more than 190 ‘arms,'” McGlynn wrote.

The Second Amendment Foundation, Firearms Policy Coalition, Gun Owners of America, the Gun Owners Foundation, Federal Firearms Licensees of Illinois, and Guns Save Life were all plaintiffs in the consolidated cases. The gun-rights groups celebrated the ruling as a win but acknowledged the fight isn’t over.

“While this may only be the end of ‘Round One,’ it’s certainly a good start in putting an end to a law we are convinced is entirely unconstitutional,” Alan Gottlieb of the Second Amendment Foundation said.

“We will continue to hammer the point home to anyone who hopes to infringe on our rights – fall in line, or we will make you,” Sam Paredes of the Gun Owners Foundation said in a statement.

Governor Pritzer’s office said they plan to continue defending the law.

“The administration is confident that as the case continues, this critical public safety law will ultimately be upheld as constitutional,” Olivia Kuncio, a spokesperson for the governor, told The Reload.

Judge McGlynn said the Illinois ban appears not just to disregard the Supreme Court’s previous rulings on gun rights but actively push against them.

“The Supreme Court in Bruen and Heller held that citizens have a constitutional right to own and possess firearms and may use them for self-defense,” he wrote. “PICA seems to be written in spite of the clear directives in Bruen and Heller, not in conformity with them.”

He further argued that state governments can’t infringe on the rights of citizens even when its stated goal, such as ensuring public safety, is laudable.

“Whether well-intentioned, brilliant, or arrogant, no state may enact a law that denies its citizens rights that the Constitution guarantees them,” Judge McGlynn wrote. “Even legislation that may enjoy the support of a majority of its citizens must fail if it violates the constitutional rights of fellow citizens.”

UPDATE 4-28-2023 6:01 PM EASTERN: This piece has been updated with comment from Governor Pritzer’s office.

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019


Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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