SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WTVO) — The Illinois Supreme Court has reversed a ruling from a lower court that said the law was unconstitutional.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the Protect Illinois Communities Act on January 10th in response to the shooting deaths of seven at the Fourth of July parade in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, where 30 were also injured.
The law bans the sale or possession of more than 170 semi-automatic guns and requires current owners of the weapons to register with the state police by January 1st, 2024.
Proponents of the law have labeled the guns as “assault weapons,” but gun shop owners have argued that true assault weapons – those used by the U.S. military – are already illegal. They are fully automatic machine guns like the M16 and the AK47, which were banned by the federal government in 1986.
Many county sheriffs across the state have said they will not enforce the ban, as it conflicts with the 2nd, 5th, and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which grants citizens the right to bear arms, the right against self-incrimination, and the right to equal protection under the law.
The state court disagreed in its opinion of Caulkins v Pritzker writing, “We hold that plaintiffs waived any second amendment challenge to the restrictions, as the complaint did not state a claim and plaintiffs explicitly and repeatedly disclaimed any such argument in the circuit court.”
The suit was brought by Rep. Dan Caulkins (R-Decatur), asking the state for summary judgment on the claim that the assault weapons ban violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Illinois Constitution.
The ban, as enacted, includes exceptions to the enforcement of the ban for certain individuals, such as active and retired law enforcement, active military, prison guards, and private security.
The judgment by the court is likely to threaten three separate challenges and a temporary restraining order in place for 4713 Illinois residents and 148 federal firearms dealers who are currently exempted from the ban.
“I am pleased that the Illinois Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the Protect Illinois Communities Act,” Pritzker said in a statement. “This is a commonsense gun reform law to keep mass-killing machines off of our streets and out of our schools, malls, parks, and places of worship. Illinoisans deserve to feel safe in every corner of our state—whether they are attending a Fourth of July Parade or heading to work—and that’s precisely what the Protect Illinois Communities Act accomplishes. This decision is a win for advocates, survivors, and families alike because it preserves this nation-leading legislation to combat gun violence and save countless lives.”
Republican Sen. Andrew Chesney (Freeport) issued a statement, saying, “I am disappointed, yet not surprised, that the highly politicized Illinois Supreme Court has chosen to act yet again as a rubber stamp for the Illinois Democratic Party. As long as Democrat lawmakers continue to go after law-abiding citizens rather than the criminals who abuse their gun rights, crime in all forms will continue to rise.”
The Illinois Rifle Association responded to the ruling, saying: “Today’s 4-3 decision by the Illinois Supreme Court that the assault weapons ban does not violate the constitution, was no surprise. But gun advocates across the state should not lose hope because our federal case — the ISRA case — which we expect to go before the U.S. Supreme Court, will prove to be a victory not just for law-abiding gun owners in Illinois — but across the country. And the ISRA and the Second Amendment Foundation are proud to stand up for gun owners as we take our case to the highest court in the land.”