Appellate Court Ruling Leaves Illinois Assault Weapons Ban on Hold

In a 2-to-1 ruling, the Fifth District appellate court says that the bill will remain on hold due to pending litigation

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An Illinois appellate court has ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit over the state’s assault weapons ban, finding that a temporary restraining order keeping the bill from going into effect can stand.

The ruling, issued by Illinois’ Fifth District appellate court, found that the lawsuit filed in Effingham County can proceed, and that the TRO issued by a circuit court judge in southern Illinois can remain in effect, though in a narrower scope than previously found.

The ruling only applies to those plaintiffs listed in the lawsuit, including several gun shops and hundreds of firearm owners.

The appellate court found in favor of the plaintiffs on Count IV of their lawsuit, which argued that the bill violated the equal protection clause in the state and U.S. Constitutions.

The court ruled that the plaintiffs’ arguments met the requirement of “a likelihood of success on the merits,” and allowed the TRO to stand for now.

The Fifth District appellate court voted 2-to-1 to extend the TRO statewide.

Other parts of the ruling were also critical of the legislature’s handling of the bill, though it stopped short of agreeing with the plaintiffs’ arguments that such a violation would make the bill unconstitutional.  

The Attorney General's office says it intends to appeal the ruling to the state's Supreme Court.

"The Protect Illinois Communities Act is an important tool in what must be a comprehensive approach to addressing gun violence throughout Illinois, and we remain committed to defending the statute's constitutionality," a spokesperson said. "We are reviewing the 5th District's decision, and we will seek its review by the Illinois Supreme Court."

The judges in the case also encouraged the state’s Supreme Court to revisit several procedures used in the legislature during the passage of the bill, including replacing a non-related bill with the ban’s language and enforcing regulations that require legislation to be put forward for public input and review before passage.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Moore argued that a TRO requires that a “fair question” exist as to whether the plaintiffs had a “likelihood of succeeding on the merits,” and that the plaintiffs did not meet that criteria on Count IV of the lawsuit.

The suit was one of numerous actions filed against the assault weapons ban, which would not only prohibit the sale or possession of firearms designated as “assault weapons,” but would also require gun owners to register weapons by Jan. 2024.

That requirement was one of several targeted by lawsuits, with plaintiffs arguing that it represented a violation of the Fifth Amendment’s protections against self-incrimination.

Suits filed against the bill also allege that it violates the Second Amendment’s protections for gun possession and ownership, and that it violates the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

The plaintiffs in the Effingham County suit, which include former Attorney General candidate Thomas DeVore and former Republican gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey, praised Tuesday’s ruling as a “serious blow” to the Pritzker administration.

Pritzker and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul have said they are confident that the bill will withstand legal scrutiny, and the ruling on the TRO will in all likelihood be appealed to the state’s Supreme Court.

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