EAST ST.LOUIS, Illinois -(Ammoland.com)- Gun Owners of America and a coalition of gun rights groups have filed a federal lawsuit to challenge Illinois’s so-called “assault weapons” ban in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.
The coalition consists of Gun Owners of America, Gun Owners Foundation, Federal Firearms Licensees of Illinois, Gun Save Life, Piasa Armory, and three Illinois residents. The group is suing Governor J.B. Pritzker, Attorney General Kwame Raoul, and Director of Illinois State Police Brendan Kelly. The plaintiffs claim that the State’s new “Firearms Ban Act” violates the right to bear arms as outlined in the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution and the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The law is popular around Chicago and its suburbs, but most areas of Illinois vehemently oppose it. Currently, 90% of the State’s Sheriffs have vowed not to enforce it because they took an oath to uphold the United States Constitution. The Sheriffs view this law as unconstitutional. The point isn’t lost on Gun Owners of America’s Senior Vice President, Erich Pratt.
“In response to nearly every sheriff in his state making clear that this law is blatantly unconstitutional, Governor Pritzker tyrannically threatened police by saying they will do their job or be out of a job,” Pratt said. “Instead of threatening law enforcement for upholding their oaths to the U.S. Constitution, he should be exponentially increasing his efforts to rein in violent crime in Chicago, most of which is committed with illegally owned handguns.”
The new law bans semiautomatic rifles with certain cosmetic features. One firearm that is forbidden is the AR-15. The plaintiffs argue that the AR-15 and similar rifles are in common use. To back up their claim, they point out that the AR-15 has been in circulation for over 60 years and is the most popular rifle in the United States. There are an estimated 24.6 million AR-15s owned by Americans today, with most of those Americans only possessing a single rifle.
According to the Supreme Court’s Heller decision, if a firearm is in common use, that firearm cannot be banned.
These firearms are used for hunting, sport, and self-defense. The Plaintiff’s lawyers lay out multiple instances where everyday citizens used the rifle to defend themselves and their families. It appears that the attorneys laid out the examples to head off the common anti-gun claim that AR-15s are not tools of defense. They also head off the “weapon of war” argument by highlighting that no military in the world uses the AR-15 as their battle rifle.
When “assault weapons” bans have been upheld, courts have used intermediate scrutiny to balance the government interest against a person’s rights. In the Bruen Supreme Court decision, the Justices wrote that intermediate scrutiny or the “means end” test could not be used in Second Amendment cases. The courts are only allowed to use history and the original text of the Second Amendment to rule whether a gun law is constitutional. The plaintiffs make sure to highlight this fact.
The plaintiffs break down the Second Amendment in a well-written masterclass into the history of guns. They pulled from the text of not only the Second Amendment but also the Federalist papers and the writings of James Madison to prove what the Founding Fathers were thinking. The plaintiffs go into how members of marginalized communities used firearms to keep themselves safe, including Harriot Tubman. It quotes civil rights and feminist icon Ida B. Wells to show the prevailing thoughts of black Americans around the turn of the century.
“Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home, and it should be used for the protection which the law refuses to give,” Wells wrote.
The plaintiffs highlight that the U.S Government itself distributed semiautomatic rifles through its Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP). The government sold approximately 207,000 M1 Carbines to civilians with 15-round magazines and later included 30-round magazines. These magazines are banned under the Illinois Gun Ban.
The plaintiffs go after Pritzker’s “blood in the streets arguments.” The lawyer highlights that the number of people killed by other types of guns, knives, blunt objects, and hands vastly outnumber those killed by rifles of any kind. They highlight that in 2019 only seven people were killed by a rifle, and only 364 deaths nationwide were attributed to long guns. Gun rights advocates point out that if these firearms were a problem, the number of deaths would be vastly higher since there are 24.6 million AR-15s in the country.
The plaintiffs also highlight that the law makes it impossible to repair a grandfathered AR-15 because of the prohibition on parts. For example, possession of a plastic pistol grip is considered a serious crime under the controversial law. Some in the gun community believe that the government intends to make it so that once a rifle breaks, it will be useless.
The plaintiffs are asking the judge to issue a preliminary injunction against the law.
About John Crump
John is a NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. John has written about firearms, interviewed people of all walks of life, and on the Constitution. John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, or at www.crumpy.com.