Federal Judge Blocks Enforcement of Illinois Ban on Assault-Style Weapons and High-Capacity Magazines

A federal judge in southern Illinois has issued an injunction blocking enforcement of the state’s new ban on many higher-powered firearms and large-capacity ammunition magazines. The ruling came just days after a counterpart in Chicago ruled the opposite way.[0] The Illinois law bans the sale of assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines and requires existing owners of those weapons to register them with Illinois State Police. However, the judge in southern Illinois argued that the law was “bordering on the frivolous” because the Second Amendment establishes the right to own a handgun for personal self-defense, not only as part of a state militia.[1] The state contended that the law aligns with customary practices as neither assault weapons nor large-capacity magazines were prevalent during the ratification of the Second and 14th Amendments.[1] Nevertheless, the judge sided with plaintiffs who argue that the law infringes on their constitutional rights.

The Illinois law is part of a broader movement in the US to regulate firearms.[2] In recent years, several states have passed laws banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, while others have expanded background checks on gun purchases. Nevertheless, the issue remains highly divisive, with many gun rights advocates arguing that such laws violate the Second Amendment. The issue has become particularly contentious in the wake of several mass shootings, including the 2018 shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead.

The Illinois law bans the possession, sale, or manufacture of a long list of semiautomatic rifles and handguns that are defined as “assault weapons” as well as large-capacity magazines. Anyone who “sells, manufactures, delivers, imports, possesses, or purchases any assault weapon attachment or .50 caliber cartridge” could face statutory penalties.[3] Additionally, the legislation prohibits the possession of kits or devices designed to enhance the firing speed of a semiautomatic firearm and limits the acquisition of specific magazines utilized in various firearms. The ban exempts certain people from the ban such as law enforcement officers and active-duty military personnel.[4]

The issue has attracted legal challenges from gun rights advocates, who argue that the laws infringe on their constitutional rights. In addition to the Illinois case, several other cases are pending in state and federal courts across the US.[5] In February, a judge in Chicago denied a motion seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the state ban. However, in the southern district of Illinois, a judge issued an injunction blocking enforcement of the law. The issue is likely to be appealed to the US Supreme Court, which has previously ruled on the constitutionality of gun control laws.

The ongoing legal battles highlight the contentious nature of the gun control debate in the US. Supporters of gun control argue that such laws are necessary to prevent mass shootings and other gun-related violence. However, opponents argue that such laws infringe on their constitutional rights and are ineffective at preventing violence. The issue is likely to remain a major political and legal battleground in the coming years, particularly as mass shootings continue to occur in the US.

0. “Illinois ban on high-powered firearms blocked by federal judge downstate; Gov. Pritzker’s office ‘confident’ law will be upheld” Yahoo News, 28 Apr. 2023, https://news.yahoo.com/illinois-ban-high-powered-firearms-205400589.html

1. “Court finds ‘likely' 2nd Amendment violation days after different federal judge declined similar action” WVIK, 28 Apr. 2023, https://www.wvik.org/illinois/2023-04-28/court-finds-likely-2nd-amendment-violation-days-after-different-federal-judge-declined-similar-action

2. “Federal judge grants injunction on Illinois assault weapons ban” WGN TV Chicago, 29 Apr. 2023, https://wgntv.com/news/illinois/federal-judge-grants-injunction-on-illinois-assault-weapons-ban/

3. “Federal judge declines to block Illinois gun law, calls ‘assault' rifles ‘particularly dangerous'” Fox News, 28 Apr. 2023, https://www.foxnews.com/politics/federal-judge-declines-block-illinois-gun-law-calls-assault-rifles-particularly-dangerous

4. “Federal judge refuses to block assault weapons ban enforcement” Capitol News Illinois, 27 Apr. 2023, https://capitolnewsillinois.com/NEWS/federal-judge-refuses-to-block-assault-weapons-ban-enforcement

5. “Illinois' Gun And Magazine Ban Blocked By Federal Judge As Case Continues” Patch, 28 Apr. 2023, https://patch.com/illinois/across-il/illinois-gun-magazine-ban-blocked-federal-judge-case-continues

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