Illinois supreme court maintains state ban on semiautomatic assault weapons

A salesman clears the chamber of an AR-15 in 2016 at a gun store in Provo, Utah. — Reuters/File
A salesman clears the chamber of an AR-15 in 2016 at a gun store in Provo, Utah. — Reuters/File

The Illinois Supreme Court Friday upheld a prohibition on assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines that had been backed by Democrats, Reuters reported.

This ban was put in place following a deadly mass shooting in the suburb of Highland Park, Chicago, in 2022, which resulted in seven fatalities and numerous others wounded.

In a 4-3 decision, the Illinois supreme court dismissed arguments presented by a group of plaintiffs led by Republican state senator Dan Caulkins. 

They contended that the ban contravened the Illinois Constitution by not uniformly applying the law to all residents.

Justice Elizabeth Rochford, a Democrat, asserted that the equal protection and special legislation clauses within the constitution did not prevent the state legislature from treating specific individuals differently. 

This divergence was justified through exemptions for those who underwent firearms training while working in law enforcement, the military, and private security, as well as individuals who possessed the proscribed firearms before the ban’s implementation.

“The Act attempts to balance public safety against the expertise of the trained professionals and the expectation interests of the grandfathered individuals,” Rochford wrote in an opinion that was joined by three of her fellow Democratic justices.

Illinois supreme court’s Justices Lisa Holder White and David Overstreet, both Republicans and Mary Kay O’Brien, a Democrat, dissented.

The plaintiffs also argued that the law violated the right to keep and bear arms under the US Constitution’s Second Amendment. But Rochford said the plaintiffs waived that argument by not raising it at the lower-court level.

That Second Amendment argument is central to separate ongoing federal lawsuits challenging the Protect Illinois Communities Act, which Democratic Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker in January signed into law.

The law banned the sale and distribution of many kinds of high-powered semiautomatic “assault weapons,” including AK-47 and AR-15 rifles, as well as magazines that take more than 10 rounds for long guns and 15 rounds for handguns.

The conservative-majority US Supreme Court last year in striking down New York state gun limits on carrying concealed firearms announced a legal standard that could make it more difficult for lower courts to sustain new or existing gun regulations. 


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