Illinois Supreme Court upholds assault weapon ban, but federal test remains

Illinois Supreme Court upholds assault weapon ban, but federal test remains

By JERRY NOWICKI
Capitol News Illinois
jnowicki@capitolnewsillinois.com

SPRINGFIELD – The state’s ban on high-powered weapons and high-capacity magazines passed a state constitutional test Friday as it awaits a potentially more daunting challenge on the federal stage.

In a split decision, the Democratically controlled Illinois Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that the law characterizing dozens of firearms as “assault weapons” and preventing their manufacture and sale in Illinois does not constitute “special legislation.” Devices used to make guns fire more rapidly are also banned under the law.

The law remains in effect in Illinois despite other challenges at the federal level. Anyone who already owned one of the banned weapons prior to the law’s Jan. 10 effective date will be able to keep it but will be required to register it with the Illinois State Police.

Friday’s decision stems from a case brought by a group of plaintiffs led by state Rep. Dan Caulkins, R-Decatur, who argued in legal filings that the law arbitrarily treated certain classes of Illinois differently – namely law enforcement officers, certain security guards, active-duty military personnel, and people who already owned those weapons before the law took effect – by exempting them from portions of the ban.

Caulkins’ attorneys argued that creating different classes for “similarly situated” Illinoisans was a violation of the equal protection clause in the state constitution.

Justice Elizabeth Rochford wrote the majority opinion rejecting that argument.

“Plaintiffs are not similarly situated to the trained professionals,” she wrote, with fellow Democrats Chief Justice Mary Jane Theis and Justices P. Scott Neville and Joy V. Cunningham concurring.

Rochford also addressed the argument pertaining to those who were “grandfathered in” to gun ownership by the law.

“To the extent plaintiffs claim they possess restricted items, they are not treated differently from the grandfathered individuals,” she wrote. “To the extent plaintiffs claim they do not possess restricted items, they are dissimilar to the grandfathered individuals, who have a reliance interest in retaining them.”

Justice Mary K. O’Brien, also a Democrat, issued her own dissent saying that the majority should have viewed it as special legislation because a law written more generally would have accomplished the same goal without treating different classes differently.

“When we limit people’s rights, even the rights we might not like, we have to do so in a way that honors the constitution,” she wrote.

The question the court answered, however, was separate from one based on the law’s compliance with the U.S. Constitution. That decision will be up to a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit federal appeals court, which heard oral arguments in the case on June 29 but has not set a timeline for a ruling.

The measure became law with mostly Democratic support in the wake of a mass shooting at a 2022 Independence Day parade in Highland Park that left seven people dead and dozens more injured or traumatized.

Gov. JB Pritzker, who signed the bill into law in January, issued a statement Friday calling it 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,” Pritzker said in the statement.

One day earlier, however, Pritzker conceded that the pending federal case – which is widely expected to end up before the U.S. Supreme Court – will ultimately “trump whatever happens in our state courts.”

“You just don’t know what’s going to happen in the federal courts,” Pritzker said at an unrelated news conference Thursday. “And as of late, the appointees to the U.S. Supreme Court are people who, unfortunately, want to take away the rights of parade-goers and people who live in our neighborhoods to live safely and to not have assault weapons that are attacking their local communities.”

Gun rights advocates like Caulkins are hopeful that the U.S. Supreme Court – which has a 6-3 conservative majority – will take a more expansive view of the Second Amendment. Just days before the Highland Park shooting last summer, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a New York state law restricting the right to carry concealed firearms, holding that such restrictions must be consistent with the nation’s “historical tradition” of firearm regulations.

The majority in Friday’s opinion, however, noted Caulkins “waived” his right to a Second Amendment challenge in state court, as “plaintiffs explicitly and repeatedly disclaimed any such argument in the circuit court.”

Republican Lisa Holder White wrote a separate dissenting opinion from O’Brien’s, joined by Justice David K. Overstreet.

Holder White argued that the process through which the gun ban passed ran afoul of the state constitution and suggested the court should rethink its “enrolled bill doctrine” – a long-held premise granting legislative leaders wide latitude in determining whether the legislature followed proper procedures.

“When, as in this case, the work of the legislature directly impacts a fundamental right, which this court has said the right to keep and bear arms is, the people of Illinois deserve nothing less than the procedural requirements of the constitution be followed by their elected representatives and senators,” Holder White wrote.

 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of print and broadcast outlets statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

Leave a Comment





Local News

Marist basketball player Darshan Thomas at an XposureRuns unsigned seniors event. Photo by Xavier Sanchez

XposureRuns seeks to raise profile of high school hoops players

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Xavier Sanchez Correspondent While some people are leaving Illinois in search of opportunities elsewhere, some are coming to the state and creating their own opportunities for themselves and others. Mustafa Sulaiman, a native of Philadelphia who now lives in south suburban Matteson, is trying to help pave the way to college for…

Red Stars goalie Mackenzie Wood makes a save in a July 20 Summer Cup match against Gotham. IMAGN photo

Gotham tops Red Stars in PKs after scoreless draw

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent It’s rare to see the Chicago Red Stars participate in shootouts because NWSL regular-season games end in regulation, so fans got a treat on July 20. Gotham knocked off the Red Stars 5-4 on penalty kicks after regulation ended in a scoreless draw during the first round of the…

St. Rita graduate Sir Jamison Jones is ready to sign a deal with the Washington Nationals, who selected him in the 2024 MLB draft. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Players from Nazareth and St. Rita taken in 2024 MLB draft

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent Three players from the area were selected in the 2024 Major League Baseball draft, which took place July 14-16. Pitcher Ryan Smith, who graduated from Nazareth in 2021 and ended up at Illinois-Chicago, was taken by Houston in the ninth round of the draft. Smith, who underwent Tommy John…

The Green Hills Public Library District, 10331 Interlochen Dr., Palos Hills, is hosting a Back-to-School Collection Drive from now until Friday, August 9. (Supplied photo)

Green Hills Library collecting back-to-school supplies

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Kelly White It may still be summer but the Green Hills Public Library District is preparing students for their return to the classroom. The library, 10331 Interlochen Dr., Palos Hills, is hosting a Back-to-School Collection Drive from now until Friday, August 9. “One of my biggest goals as a librarian has always…

The Oak Lawn Public Library's “Jazz Music Legends of Oak Lawn" exhibit will be on display at the library, 9427 Raymond Ave., Oak Lawn, throughout 2024 and into the Spring of ’25, and celebrates one of the biggest high school jazz competitions in the country, the Oak Lawn Jazz Festival, which was held from 1960 to 1986 at Oak Lawn Community High School. (Supplied photos)

Oak Lawn Library hosts Jazz Music Legends of Oak Lawn

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Kelly White The sweet sounds of jazz have filled the Oak Lawn Public Library. Patrons were invited out on April 27 for the unveiling of the library’s latest Local History exhibit, “Jazz Music Legends of Oak Lawn.” The exhibit will be on display at the library, 9427 Raymond Ave., Oak Lawn, for…

Smith Valley resident, Eloise Johnson, and Miguel Candelas, Smith Senior Living Human Resources, worked together creating her time capsule memory last Wednesday afternoon. (Supplied photo)

Smith Village residents and employees celebrate 100 years of senior living

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Kelly White Residents at Smith Village residents and employees celebrated the 100th year of the senior living community by forecasting the future. Hundreds of Smith Village residents and employees at Smith Village, 2320 W. 113th Place, Chicago, along with community leaders and elected officials, marked the senior living community’s anniversary by looking…

A statue from a monument lies on the ground at Resurrection Cemetery in Justice. (Photo by Carol McGowan)

EF1 tornado barrels through Justice and Bridgeview

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Carol McGowan An EF1 tornado, packing winds of 90 miles per hour, swept through Justice and Bridgeview Monday night. Village of Justice Public Works Director Joe Cekus said he knew trouble was on the way. “I was looking in the sky for rotation and I heard a train,” he said. “I quickly…

Two pickup trucks in the 7400 block of Roberts Road in Bridgeview were destroyed by fire. (Photos by Steve Metsch)

Bridgeview family loses two pickup trucks, but house is saved

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Steve Metsch A Bridgeview family in the 7400 block of Roberts Road knows first-hand the damage weather can do. When high winds hit around 9:30 p.m. Monday as a tornado blew through Justice, a cemetery and then into Bridgeview, two power lines were brought down near their bi-level house. One line fell…

Rihanna will open her first Savage X Fenty store in Illinois at Orland Square Mall on Friday. (Photo by Allie Baar)

Rihanna to open Savage X Fenty store in Orland Park on Friday

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Bob Bong Barbados superstar Rihanna will open her first Savage X Fenty store in Illinois on Friday morning in Orland Square Mall in Orland Park. The singer, actor and businesswoman will open the store at the mall’s lower level near the Coach store at 10 a.m. Savage X Fenty will host a…

The Village of Palos Park encouraged residents to unplug their devices for a day at part of Unplug Illinois on July 13. (Supplied photo)

Palos Park encourages residents to unplug

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Kelly White The Village of Palos Park encouraged residents to unplug their devices for a day at part of Unplug Illinois on Saturday, July 13. The day is a state-wide effort, started in 2014, to encourage everyone to “plug into” the amazing recreational opportunities offered by local park and recreation agencies. The…

Neighbors

Marist basketball player Darshan Thomas at an XposureRuns unsigned seniors event. Photo by Xavier Sanchez

XposureRuns seeks to raise profile of high school hoops players

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Xavier Sanchez Correspondent While some people are leaving Illinois in search of opportunities elsewhere, some are coming to the state and creating their own opportunities for themselves and others. Mustafa Sulaiman, a native of Philadelphia who now lives in south suburban Matteson, is trying to help pave the way to college for…

Red Stars goalie Mackenzie Wood makes a save in a July 20 Summer Cup match against Gotham. IMAGN photo

Gotham tops Red Stars in PKs after scoreless draw

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent It’s rare to see the Chicago Red Stars participate in shootouts because NWSL regular-season games end in regulation, so fans got a treat on July 20. Gotham knocked off the Red Stars 5-4 on penalty kicks after regulation ended in a scoreless draw during the first round of the…

St. Rita graduate Sir Jamison Jones is ready to sign a deal with the Washington Nationals, who selected him in the 2024 MLB draft. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Players from Nazareth and St. Rita taken in 2024 MLB draft

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent Three players from the area were selected in the 2024 Major League Baseball draft, which took place July 14-16. Pitcher Ryan Smith, who graduated from Nazareth in 2021 and ended up at Illinois-Chicago, was taken by Houston in the ninth round of the draft. Smith, who underwent Tommy John…

The Green Hills Public Library District, 10331 Interlochen Dr., Palos Hills, is hosting a Back-to-School Collection Drive from now until Friday, August 9. (Supplied photo)

Green Hills Library collecting back-to-school supplies

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Kelly White It may still be summer but the Green Hills Public Library District is preparing students for their return to the classroom. The library, 10331 Interlochen Dr., Palos Hills, is hosting a Back-to-School Collection Drive from now until Friday, August 9. “One of my biggest goals as a librarian has always…

The Oak Lawn Public Library's “Jazz Music Legends of Oak Lawn" exhibit will be on display at the library, 9427 Raymond Ave., Oak Lawn, throughout 2024 and into the Spring of ’25, and celebrates one of the biggest high school jazz competitions in the country, the Oak Lawn Jazz Festival, which was held from 1960 to 1986 at Oak Lawn Community High School. (Supplied photos)

Oak Lawn Library hosts Jazz Music Legends of Oak Lawn

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Kelly White The sweet sounds of jazz have filled the Oak Lawn Public Library. Patrons were invited out on April 27 for the unveiling of the library’s latest Local History exhibit, “Jazz Music Legends of Oak Lawn.” The exhibit will be on display at the library, 9427 Raymond Ave., Oak Lawn, for…

Smith Valley resident, Eloise Johnson, and Miguel Candelas, Smith Senior Living Human Resources, worked together creating her time capsule memory last Wednesday afternoon. (Supplied photo)

Smith Village residents and employees celebrate 100 years of senior living

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Kelly White Residents at Smith Village residents and employees celebrated the 100th year of the senior living community by forecasting the future. Hundreds of Smith Village residents and employees at Smith Village, 2320 W. 113th Place, Chicago, along with community leaders and elected officials, marked the senior living community’s anniversary by looking…

A statue from a monument lies on the ground at Resurrection Cemetery in Justice. (Photo by Carol McGowan)

EF1 tornado barrels through Justice and Bridgeview

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Carol McGowan An EF1 tornado, packing winds of 90 miles per hour, swept through Justice and Bridgeview Monday night. Village of Justice Public Works Director Joe Cekus said he knew trouble was on the way. “I was looking in the sky for rotation and I heard a train,” he said. “I quickly…

Two pickup trucks in the 7400 block of Roberts Road in Bridgeview were destroyed by fire. (Photos by Steve Metsch)

Bridgeview family loses two pickup trucks, but house is saved

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Steve Metsch A Bridgeview family in the 7400 block of Roberts Road knows first-hand the damage weather can do. When high winds hit around 9:30 p.m. Monday as a tornado blew through Justice, a cemetery and then into Bridgeview, two power lines were brought down near their bi-level house. One line fell…

Rihanna will open her first Savage X Fenty store in Illinois at Orland Square Mall on Friday. (Photo by Allie Baar)

Rihanna to open Savage X Fenty store in Orland Park on Friday

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Bob Bong Barbados superstar Rihanna will open her first Savage X Fenty store in Illinois on Friday morning in Orland Square Mall in Orland Park. The singer, actor and businesswoman will open the store at the mall’s lower level near the Coach store at 10 a.m. Savage X Fenty will host a…

The Village of Palos Park encouraged residents to unplug their devices for a day at part of Unplug Illinois on July 13. (Supplied photo)

Palos Park encourages residents to unplug

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Kelly White The Village of Palos Park encouraged residents to unplug their devices for a day at part of Unplug Illinois on Saturday, July 13. The day is a state-wide effort, started in 2014, to encourage everyone to “plug into” the amazing recreational opportunities offered by local park and recreation agencies. The…