Gov. J.B. Pritzker signing the statewide assault weapons ban in Springfield on Jan. 10.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signing the statewide assault weapons ban in Springfield on Jan. 10.

Blue Room Stream

Federal judge denies bid to block Illinois assault weapons ban, Naperville gun restriction

The decision appears to be the first from a federal judge considering whether the ban meets the standards set out last summer in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling authored by Justice Clarence Thomas.

A federal judge in Chicago has denied a motion seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to block Illinois’ assault weapons ban and a similar ordinance in Naperville.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall ruled Friday that the Illinois and Naperville bans on selling assault weapons are “constitutionally sound.”

Lawyers for the National Association for Gun Rights and Robert Bevis, who owns a gun store in Naperville, had sought the court orders in a lawsuit to stop the bans.

As is now common in such cases, they argued that it’s “impossible” for the new state gun law and a similar Naperville ordinance to meet the requirements for such laws that were set out in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case last summer known as New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen.

The Supreme Court ruled in that case that governments must show that gun regulations are “consistent with the nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”

In her ruling, Kendall wrote that the Illinois and Naperville bans meet that burden: “Because assault weapons are particularly dangerous weapons and high-capacity magazines are particularly dangerous weapon accessories, their regulation accords with history and tradition.

“Naperville and Illinois lawfully exercised their authority to control their possession, transfer, sale, and manufacture by enacting a ban on commercial sales,” the judge wrote.

While the lawsuit is one of a number of challenges facing Illinois’ ban, Kendall’s decision appears to be the first from a federal judge considering whether the ban meets the standard set out by the Supreme Court last year.

In that ruling, whose majority opinion was written by Justice Clarence Thomas, restrictions on weapons must be limited to dangerous and unusual arms that aren’t commonly used.

The weapons banned by the Illinois law are “unquestionably” in common use, the lawyers for the National Association for Gun Rights argued.

“An arm that is in common use for lawful purposes is, by definition, not unusual,” the lawyers wrote. “Such an arm therefore cannot be both dangerous and unusual and therefore cannot be … subjected to a blanket ban.”

Kendall ruled that the government can regulate highly dangerous arms, including assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, that pose an unusual risk that can cause greater harm and more deaths.

“The text of the Second Amendment is limited to only certain arms, and history and tradition demonstrate that particularly ‘dangerous’ weapons are unprotected,” the judge wrote.

Assault weapons are also not commonly used for self-defense, Kendall wrote, and gun owners have many other firearms they could use for protection.

The judge said the request to block the bans didn’t demonstrate that failing to do so would cause irreparable harm to those suing.

“Bevis has not furnished any evidence that he will lose substantial sales, and he can still sell almost any other type of gun,” Kendall wrote. “While a high number of assault weapons are in circulation, only 5% of firearms are assault weapons.”

Kendall also ruled that the state and Naperville have a more compelling argument for protecting the public interest than Bevis and the National Association for Gun Rights.

“On the one hand, they suffer an alleged deprivation of a constitutional right,” the judge wrote. “Again, though, the financial burden and loss of access to effective firearms would be minimal. On the other side, Illinois and Naperville compellingly argue their laws protect public safety by removing particularly dangerous weapons from circulation.”

The plaintiffs filed suit last year after Naperville passed its ban, then added the state to the case after Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law the statewide assault weapons ban.

The state law — which is now on hold in some parts of Illinois as a result of a separate lawsuit — bans the sale of assault weapons and caps the purchase of magazines at 10 rounds for long guns and 15 for handguns.

It also makes rapid-fire devices known as switches illegal because they turn firearms into fully automatic weapons.

Anyone who already owns the banned guns is allowed to keep them but required to register them with the Illinois State Police by Jan. 1.

Earlier this month, a state court judge in southern Illinois blocked enforcement of the assault-weapons ban against 865 gun owners and one firearms store owner who filed a lawsuit challenging the law.

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