March 6, 2023
Story by Dan Petrella, Jeremy Gorner, Hank Sanders, Chicago Tribune • 1h ago
A downstate judge on Friday struck down the ban on high-power firearms and high-capacity ammunition magazines that Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law earlier this year, a ruling the Illinois attorney general’s office immediately appealed to the state Supreme Court.
The scope of the ruling was a subject of dispute, with the attorney for the state lawmaker who was the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit arguing that it applies statewide and Pritzker’s office contending it does not.
“We expected political grandstanding from those more beholden to the gun lobby than to the safety of their constituents and today’s ruling comes as no surprise,” Pritzker spokesman Alex Gough said in a statement, adding that “the governor is confident” the law ultimately will be held constitutional.
Macon County Judge Rodney Forbes wrote in a two-page ruling that the ban, passed by the Democratic-controlled legislature in response to the deadly mass shooting at Highland Park’s Fourth of July parade, violates the equal protection and special legislation clauses of the Illinois Constitution.
The ruling in some ways mirrors earlier circuit and appellate court rulings that temporarily lifted the ban for hundreds of plaintiffs in legal challenges brought by unsuccessful Republican attorney general candidate Thomas DeVore.
An attorney for GOP state Rep. Dan Caulkins of Decatur, lead plaintiff in the Macon County lawsuit, said in a statement that Friday’s ruling applies more broadly.
Under “well-established Illinois authority” the ruling means the ban “is void, as if the law never existed, and is unenforceable in its entirety, in all applications,” Decatur attorney Jerrold Stocks said.
Caulkins’ lawsuit, which names Pritzker and Attorney General Kwame Raoul, among others, as defendants, alleges the ban violates a state constitutional provision that guarantees “no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law nor be denied the equal protection of the laws.”
Among other issues, the lawsuit, like those brought by DeVore, argues that the law violates the equal protection clause by exempting certain groups, such as retired police officers, but not others, such as retired members of the military.
Friday’s ruling, “represents a victory in one battle that is not, necessarily, the end of the war against the subject legislation,” Stocks said, acknowledging both the state’s intention to appeal and other ongoing legal challenges to the law.
In this case, the final decision likely will rest in the hands of the Illinois Supreme Court.
Raoul’s office filed its notice of appeal with the high court Friday and expects it to be accepted Monday, spokeswoman Jamey Dunn-Thomason said in a statement.
“We will ask the court for an expedited schedule, and we look forward to defending the act,” Dunn-Thomason said.
A federal court in Chicago last month denied a Naperville gun shop owner’s request for an injunction blocking the city’s newly minted ban on the sale of certain semi-automatic weapons along with the state ban.
U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall found that the city and state bans “constitutionally sound.”
“Illinois and Naperville compellingly argue their laws protect public safety by removing particularly dangerous weapons from circulation,” Kendall wrote.
At the same time, the Illinois Supreme Court last month agreed to consolidate three related cases brought by DeVore but declined to include the Caulkins case.
The state also is defending the law against a group of lawsuits brought in federal court in the Southern District of Illinois.
In at least one of the cases, plaintiffs are seeking a temporary restraining order on Second Amendment violation grounds. The plaintiffs cite two U.S. Supreme Court cases, including one from last year that greatly expanded Second Amendment protections by imposing a new constitutional test requiring gun laws to be “historically” consistent with laws on the books in the 18th century.
Signed by Pritzker hours after it was passed by legislators in early January, the law immediately banned the delivery, sale, import and purchase of guns that are designated in the law as “assault weapons.”
Starting next year, people who possess guns covered by the ban must either register them with the state or face a misdemeanor for a first offense and a felony for subsequent offenses.
“Ninety-eight percent of the people in this country are decent, hardworking, honest Americans. It’s the other lousy two percent that get all the publicity. But then, we elected them.”
“The people who work against your gun rights are basically saying to you, “The right of the criminal to rip you off, rape and kill you shall not be infringed.” And they wonder why we’re a bit testy”
“I declare to you that woman must not depend upon the protection of man, but must be taught to protect herself, and there I take my stand.”
“You may find me one day dead in a ditch somewhere. But by God, you’ll find me in a pile of brass.”
“Using inner city kids as your proof that guns and kids don’t mix, is like using an alcoholic to prove all people will abuse alcohol.”
“How dare politicians continue to pass insane laws forcing good, law-abiding people to be defenseless and helpless.”
The said Constitution [shall] never be construed to authorize Congress to infringe or to prevent the people of the United States from keeping their own arms.”
“One of the greatest delusions in the world is the hope that the evils in this world are to be cured by legislation.”
“No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.”
“Foolish liberals who are trying to read the Second Amendment out of the Constitution are courting disaster by encouraging others to use the same means to eliminate portions of the constitution THEY don’t like.”
“Every 13 seconds in America someone uses a gun to stop a crime.”
“The AK-47 is not a device of aggression … I devised this machine-gun for the security of my country,”