With just one day left to spare in the state’s lame duck session, Illinois legislators have sent a ban on so-called assault weapons to Governor J.B. Pritzker’s (D.) desk.
The Illinois House voted 68-41 to pass House Bill 5471 on a concurrence vote Tuesday. The bill stands to ban the sale and manufacture of certain semi-automatic firearms like AR-15s and AK-47s, handgun magazines capable of holding more than 15 rounds of ammunition, long gun magazines capable of holding more than ten rounds of ammunition, .50 caliber firearms and ammunition, and expands the duration of the state’s “red flag” restraining order from six months to one year. It now heads to Pritzker’s desk, where he is expected to sign it into law.
“After continued negotiations between the leaders, stakeholders, and advocates, we have reached a deal on one of strongest assault weapon bans in the country,” Governor Pritzker, Senate President Don Harmon (D.), and House Speaker Chris Welch (D.) said in a joint statement. “With this legislation we are delivering on the promises Democrats have made and, together, we are making Illinois’ gun laws a model for the nation.”
The law’s passage marks a significant win for gun-control advocates. Once signed, Illinois will be the ninth state to pass an assault weapon ban and the fourteenth state to regulate magazine capacity. Both have been longstanding policy goals for the American gun-control movement, which could see renewed momentum to push for the bans in other states this year.
At the same time, that success could ultimately be short-lived. Following the Supreme Court’s decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, which established a new test for reviewing Second Amendment cases in court, the legality of assault weapon bans across the country have been called into question.
Gun-rights advocates in the state echoed that sentiment. Richard Pearson, Executive Director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, told The Reload that HB 5471 “flies in the face of the Supreme Court.” He said that his organization, the Second Amendment Foundation, and Firearms Policy Coalition are planning to file suit against the law.
“We’re getting ready right now, actually,” he said.
Gun-control advocates cheered the bill’s passage.
“Brady applauds the passage of this life-saving legislation that will better protect communities across Illinois,” Kris Brown, President of Brady, said in a press release. “This assault weapons ban will add to Illinois’ record of strong gun laws and help prevent tragedies like Highland Park and countless others from occurring again.”
The ban that ultimately passed on Tuesday experienced several changes during its journey through the legislature. A version of the bill that first passed the House would have limited all magazines to 12 rounds, regardless of the type of firearm they’re used in. Senate lawmakers later amended the bill to create separate standards for long gun and handgun magazines and also attempted to remove the registration requirement for grandfathered firearms affected by the ban.
That attempted amendment drew sharp condemnation from Governor Pritzker.
“Enough is enough,” Pritzker said on the prospect of a slightly watered-down version 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.”
Ultimately, Senate leadership caved to those demands, and the registration requirement was left in the bill’s final version. Gun owners who lawfully purchased affected weapons and magazines will have 300 days to register them with the state’s police. They will also be forced to restrict their use to a select few limited applications or face criminal penalties for continuing to possess them.
Republican lawmakers opposed to the ban voiced concern over the legality of categorically outlawing whole classes of firearms and ammunition magazines during the floor debate on the bill. State Senator Terri Bryant (R.) called it “an appalling attempt to disregard the Second Amendment rights of the people of our state.”
“Make no mistake, when you vote for this today, you’re violating your oath of office,” she said.
State-level assault weapon bans have experienced a budding resurgence over the past year, even as public support for the policy has declined. And more bans may be coming soon. Outside of Illinois, state lawmakers in Washington state and Colorado have announced proposals for their own statewide assault-weapon bans.
At the same time, gun-rights advocates have had success rolling back similar prohibitions in other jurisdictions. Federal appeals court rulings upholding Maryland’s assault weapon ban and magazine bans in California and New Jersey were vacated by the U.S. Supreme Court, which ordered the lower courts to rehear the case with the new Bruen test in mind. Additionally, two separate Colorado municipal bans were blocked under that test in federal court last year by judges who ruled that they likely violated the constitution.