Illinois Supreme Court finds state assault weapons ban constitutional

Friday, August 11, 2023
Illinois assault weapons ban upheld by state Supreme Court
The Illinois Supreme Court ruled in favor of the assault weapons ban that was signed into law by Governor JB Pritzker last January.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Illinois Supreme Court found the state's assault weapons ban constitutional Friday, overturning a lower court decision.

Governor JB Pritzker signed an assault weapons ban earlier this year.

In the 4-3 ruling, the court found, "First, we hold the circuit court erroneously entered summary judgment for plaintiffs on their equal protection and special legislation claims. Plaintiffs are not similarly situated to the trained professionals. To the extent plaintiffs claim they possess restricted items, they are not treated differently from the grandfathered individuals. To the extent plaintiffs claim they do not possess restricted items, they are dissimilar to the grandfathered individuals, who have a reliance interest in retaining them. 82 Second, we hold that plaintiffs waived any second amendment challenge to the restrictions, as the complaint did not state a claim and plaintiffs explicitly and repeatedly disclaimed any such argument in the circuit court. Third, we hold plaintiffs' failure to cross-appeal from the denial of relief under count II bars them from renewing their three-readings claim here. For these reasons, the judgment of the circuit court of Macon County is reversed."

The law was quickly challenged after Pritzker signed it and made its way to the state supreme court. The assault weapons ban still faces legal challenges in federal court.

The lawsuit filed by Republican Representative Dan Caulkins, from Decatur, and like-minded gun owners alleges the law violates the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

"This bill was written with constitutionality in mind. It was based on bills in other states where the same ban has been upheld and so I am just grateful for the Illinois Supreme Court following along with precedent and doing the right thing," Ashbey Beasley, Highland Park shooting survivor and gun control advocate, said.

"When you have a supreme court where the last two justices that were elected benefitted greatly from political contributions from the governor, it is really hard to be realistic," Caulkins said.

The law bans dozens of types of rifles and handguns, 50 caliber guns, attachments and rapid-firing devices. The most popular gun targeted is the AR-15 rifle.

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In a statement Pritzker hailing the decision saying in part, "This is a commonsense gun reform law to keep mass-killing machines off of our streets and out of our schools, malls, parks, and places of worship

Pritzker signed the Protect Our Communities Act months after a shooter using a high-powered rifle killed seven people and injured dozens last year at a 4th of July Parade in Highland Park.

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Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson issued a statement, saying, "Today's decision by the Illinois Supreme Court will save lives by preventing weapons of war and tools of mass killings from flowing freely in Illinois. This is a win for gun safety organizers, gun violence survivors and the loves ones of victims. The Protect Illinois Communities Act will help us build a better, stronger, safer Chicago."

The new law set off a firestorm of criticism from guns rights advocates and many angry county sheriffs, who signed a statement saying they wouldn't enforce the law.

Meanwhile, several other lawsuits against the ban filed in federal court were consolidated and are awaiting action in an appeals court. It's led by a lawsuit from Robert Bevis, owner of Law Weapons in Naperville. Today's ruling does not deter him.

"The Second Amendment is clear. You know, you cannot ban a group of firearms because of the actions of a few. It's similar to say that if you want to stop drunk drivers from killing sober drivers, just don't let sober drivers drive," he said.

Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, said in a statement, "Today's 4-3 decision by the Illinois Supreme Court that the assault weapons ban does not violate the constitution, was no surprise. But gun advocates across the state should not lose hope because our federal case -- the ISRA case -- which we expect to go before the U.S. Supreme Court, will prove to be a victory not just for law-abiding gun owners in Illinois -- but across the country. And the ISRA and the Second Amendment Foundation are proud to stand up for gun owners as we take our case to the highest court in the land."