The state of Illinois has lost a gun regulation appeal in a case filed by gun owners and advocates against a law seeking to ban the possession and sale of some semiautomatic firearms. A county court first issued a temporary restraining order against the law, which the state appealed.
On Jan. 10, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the Protect Illinois Communities Act, which prohibits the manufacture, possession, and distribution of some semiautomatic firearms referred to as “assault weapons” in the law. Individuals who already owned such weapons prior to Jan. 10 are obligated to register them with the state police by Jan. 1, 2024.
Hundreds of gun owners, advocates, and merchants filed a lawsuit seeking a restraining order on the law.
On Jan. 20, Effingham County Judge Joshua Morrison sided with plaintiffs by issuing a temporary restraining order (TRO), preventing the law from being enforced for the plaintiffs in the case.
Plaintiffs argued that the law violates the equal protection clause of the state and U.S. constitutions by making some groups of people exempt from it, like law enforcement, retired police officers, and corrections officers, while denying millions of Illinois citizens the right to own a gun.
The state of Illinois decided to appeal the case. Attorney General Kwame Raoul filed an appeal at the Illinois 5th District Appellate Court.
On Tuesday, the appellate court ruled in a 2–1 decision to uphold the TRO.
The justices noted that both sides of the gun control dispute insist that their aim is to save lives.
“We grapple with a fundamental right to bear and keep arms that allows plaintiffs to defend themselves or their families against a desire to protect the citizens of this state from the random atrocities associated with mass shootings,” the court said in its ruling (pdf).
Reacting to the appellate court judgment, a spokesperson for the attorney general’s office said the Protect Illinois Communities Act is an “important tool” to address gun violence throughout the state.
“We are reviewing the 5th District’s decision, and we will seek its review by the Illinois Supreme Court. We will ask the court for an expedited schedule,” the spokesperson said in a statement to FOX 32.
“The 5th Appellate Court upholds Effingham County Judge’s TRO against JB Pritzker’s Assault Weapons Ban. Today is a win for my clients,” Thomas DeVore, the attorney who had filed a lawsuit on behalf of the hundreds of plaintiffs, said in a Twitter post Wednesday.
The judgment was welcomed by Republicans.
“Another win for our constitutional freedoms in Illinois and another defeat for Pritzker’s gun grab bill,” the Illinois Republican Party posted on Twitter.
When Pritzker signed the act into law, he invoked mass shootings, including the one which took place at a Fourth of July parade last year, to justify the need for such legislation.
An assault weapon, under the text of the bill, is defined as a semiautomatic rifle that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and includes a pistol grip or thumbhole stock, a flash suppressor, a grenade launcher, a barrel shroud, or other features.
A semiautomatic pistol that can accept a detachable magazine or that may be readily modified to accept a detachable magazine with a threaded barrel, second pistol grip, a flash suppressor, a barrel shroud, and other features is also considered an assault weapon under the law.
A number of AK-style rifles such as the AR-10 and AR-15 are considered assault weapons under the rules. Also banned are .50-caliber guns.
The law has attracted intense criticism from Republican lawmakers.
“I’ll die on my front porch before anyone takes my guns away. My message to Springfield: If you want my guns, come get them,” Illinois state Sen. Darren Bailey, a Republican who lost the governor’s race to Pritzker, wrote in a Jan. 10 tweet.
Republican state Rep. Blaine Wilhour also insisted that he will not be complying with the law, saying the Constitution is on his side.
Sheriffs from multiple counties, including McHenry, Kankakee, LaSalle, and DeKalb have also said that they will not enforce the law and that the gun control measure violates the second amendment.
Jack Phillips contributed to this report.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the applicability of the decision from the Illinois 5th District Appellate Court. The order applies only to the plaintiffs in the case. The Epoch Times regrets the error.