Ill. top court allows suit vs. assault weapons ban

April 5, 2012 4:15:19 PM PDT
The Illinois Supreme Court cleared the way Thursday for a challenge to the assault weapons ban in Cook County.

The court ruled that a legal challenge to Cook County's assault weapons ban can now move forward.

The issue is whether assault weapons are protected under the 2nd Amendment, the right to bear arms. On that issue, the state supreme court remanded the case back to the circuit court for further proceedings.

Meanwhile, in Ron Holt's home, pictures of his murdered son, Blair, are everywhere. Since his death in 2007, Cook County's ordinance was renamed the Blair Holt Assault Weapons Ban -- and that ban is at the heart of Thursday's legal case.

"Let's not get rid of the entire assault weapons ban, because I believe that it's a good law and it should remain in place," Holt said.

Thursday, the Illinois Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a legal challenge to the assault weapons ban can move forward and should not have been dismissed by lower courts, where it will now return.

"It does have to go back to the lower court," said Illinois State Rifle Association Executive Director Richard Pearson. "But this time we get to present evidence...and that was not considered the first time, so we're glad that we can present evidence on our side this time."

The Illinois Supreme Court said at issue is the "constitutional validity" of Cook County's ordinance. The court's opinion said, in part, that "it cannot be said conclusively whether 'assault weapons' as defined by the ordinance fall within or outside the scope of the rights protected by the 2nd Amendment."

"The 2nd Amendment protects firearms that are in common use, and all the firearms we're talking about are in common use," Pearson said.

"I support the 2nd Amendment," said Holt, "but it also says who has the right to bear those certain types of arms."

Three Cook County residents challenged the ban, saying they have valid reasons to own the prohibited weapons and mentioned hunting, target shooting, or personal protection.

Thursday, Ron Holt, a Chicago police officer, said he understands those concerns and said a compromise is possible.

"Maybe there can be some amendments to it that can doable that would create some type of compromise on both sides of the aisles, where everyone will not be happy, but you can satisfy most," Holt said.

"We hope we get this overturned and the citizens of Chicago can own and use firearms that are in common use that you can buy anywhere else in the United States without any problems," said Pearson.

The state supreme court dismissed parts of the case dealing with equal protection and denial of due process. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said the county is pleased with those dismissals and believes the court will continue to uphold the ban.

Both sides agree this could take months -- likely years -- to resolve.