Illinois' assault weapons ban is back in place after a federal appellate court’s order
The assault weapons ban that Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law in January is back in force after a federal appeals court on Thursday blocked a temporary injunction that a lower court judge in East St. Louis issued on April 28.
In a one-page order, Judge Frank H. Easterbrook of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago granted a motion from Attorney General Kwame Raoul to stay the injunction pending an appeal of the lower court’s order.
“The decision means that the Protect Illinois Communities Act remains in effect throughout Illinois,” Raoul said in a statement. “We continue to be committed to defending the law’s constitutionality in court.”
Lawmakers passed the ban during a special lame duck session in January, making Illinois the ninth state to enact such a law. It came in response to a mass shooting last year at an Independence Day parade in Highland Park that left seven people dead and dozens more injured or traumatized.
The law bans the possession, sale and manufacture of more than 190 types of firearms defined as “assault weapons,” along with large-capacity magazines and certain kinds of grips and attachments. People who already own those weapons are allowed to keep them, but they must register them with the Illinois State Police by Jan. 1, 2024. The law also limits who those gun owners can sell their weapons to.
Passage of the law sparked immediate lawsuits in both state and federal courts. Two different state court judges issued injunctions blocking enforcement of the law, but the Illinois Supreme Court put a hold on those orders and will hear an appeal of those decisions later this year.
The law was also challenged in the Northern District of Illinois where cases were already proceeding challenging local assault weapons bans in Chicago, Cook County, Naperville and Highland Park. Judges in two of those cases rejected constitutional challenges to the law, and those decisions are also on appeal at the Seventh Circuit.
The Seventh Circuit has previously ruled on the local laws in Cook County and Highland Park, both times finding the weapons bans constitutional. In his order Thursday, Easterbrook gave the plaintiffs in the Southern District cases until Tuesday, May 9, to file a response to his stay and said any response should discuss how those two decisions relate to the current lawsuit.
Last week’s ruling from the Southern District involved four separate lawsuits that were consolidated because they all centered on the same question.
In that ruling, Judge Stephen P. McGlynn said that a temporary restraining order was justified because there was ample evidence to suggest the state law violates the Second Amendment right to bear arms as well as the 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection in state laws – the opposite conclusion that judges in the Northern District reached.
In a statement Friday, the Gun Violence Prevention PAC, one of the main advocates for the law, praised the Seventh Circuit’s decision to keep the law in place during the appeal.
“As our country continues to witness a slew of mass shootings, it is critical that common sense gun safety measures remain on the books to keep our communities and children safe,” the organization said in a statement. “Although this fight to secure the existing assault weapons ban in our state remains far from over, this week’s decision is a necessary one that will save lives and take Illinois one step closer to making public safety a reality for all.”
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of print and broadcast outlets statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.