Two Second Amendment advocacy groups petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear arguments against Illinois’s ban on certain semiautomatic firearms and magazines.
The National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR) announced in a Feb. 12, 2024, press release that it had filed a petition for certiorari asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overrule the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and strike down the Protecting Illinois Communities Act (Act).
The NAGR was joined in the petition by gun store owner Robert Bevis.
“Under the Second Amendment and the Supreme Court’s Heller and Bruen precedents, you can’t ban so-called ‘assault weapons.’ The 7th Circuit had to actually rule that AR-15s aren’t guns at all in order to uphold the gun ban. That’s how open and shut our case is,” Hannah Hill, Executive Director of the National Foundation for Gun Rights (legal arm of the National Association for Gun Rights), wrote in the NAGR press release.
The NAGR wasn’t the only organization to file a petition.
The Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), Illinois State Rifle Association, Firearms Policy Coalition Inc., C4 Gun Store, LLC, Marengo Guns, Incl, and Dane Harrel also filed a petition on Feb. 12. Both groups base their petitions on two landmark decisions that have upended how the Second Amendment is viewed.
In the 2008 case, District of Columbia v. Heller, the court ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual right and that laws requiring guns to be stored, unloaded, and locked violated the Second Amendment. In 2022, the court issued its decision in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen.
That decision established a text and history standard for new gun laws. Under that test, any new gun law would have to comply with the plain text of the Second Amendment and have a comparable analog in the history of U.S. firearms law.
“Clearly, the Illinois gun and magazine bans are unconstitutional under principles set down in the 2008 Heller ruling and the 2022 Bruen decision,” Alan Gottlieb, SAF founder and executive vice president, wrote in a Feb. 12 SAF press release.
“It is indisputable that modern semiautomatic rifles and magazines holding more than 10 cartridges are in common use by tens of millions of U.S. citizens, so such a ban is, in the court’s own words, ‘off the table.’”
Arguing that the ban covers firearms that law-abiding citizens commonly possess for lawful reasons, including self-defense, the NAGR, joined by Mr. Bevis and his store (Law Weapons & Supply), filed suit.
In November 2023, a district court rejected the NAGR’s request, and a divided three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit also refused to halt the ban.
At that time, U.S. Circuit Judge Diane Wood, an appointee of former President Bill Clinton, wrote for the 2-1 majority in the ruling that the plaintiffs needed to prove that the weapons banned under the Illinois law “are arms that ordinary people would keep at home for purposes of self-defense, not weapons that are exclusively or predominantly useful in military service, or weapons that are not possessed for lawful purposes.”
In December 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court turned down an NAGR request for an injunction, allowing the law to go into effect while challenges made their way through the lower courts.
In the NAGR press release, Dudley Brown, NAGR president, said the lower courts are ignoring the law and Constitution.
“Ever since Bruen, the lower courts have upheld ‘assault weapons’ bans in every single contested case. If that doesn’t spell outright defiance of the Supreme Court and an absolute unwillingness to obey the Constitution, I don’t know what does,” Mr. Brown wrote.
The Act was sponsored by state Rep. Bob Morgan (D-58th District) and was signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in January 2023. The law bans so-called assault weapons and magazines with more than ten rounds of ammunition.
The ACT also established an anti-gun trafficking strike force in the Illinois state police and allowed those who currently own banned weapons to keep them if they register them with the state and pay a fee.
The law increases the age to obtain a Firearm Owner Identification card to 21. Before the law, people younger than 21 could receive a card if a parent or guardian signed for them. The law makes exceptions for persons under 21 serving in the U.S. military or Illinois National Guard. It would also permit guardian-supervised hunting or shooting sports.