Illinois’ assault weapons ban back in effect for now after ruling by federal appeals judge in Chicago

Appellate Judge Frank Easterbrook put a hold on an injunction that had been issued against the law last week by a federal judge in southern Illinois.

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Rifles on display in Law Weapons & Supply in Naperville, owned by Robert Bevis.

Rifles on display in Law Weapons & Supply in Naperville, owned by Robert Bevis.

Rich Hein / Sun-Times file

Illinois’ assault weapons ban appears to be back in effect for now after a federal appeals judge in Chicago put a hold Thursday on last week’s ruling by a judge that blocked enforcement of the ban.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he’s thankful that “Illinois law enforcement can continue to enforce the ban on the sale of high-capacity magazines and assault weapons while this case makes its way through the courts.”

“As I have said since the passage of this law, this is a constitutional piece of legislation that was carefully crafted by members of the General Assembly and advocates to keep Illinois communities safe,” Pritzker said. “Although the legal battle will continue, this ruling by the court is a step in the right direction that allows us to keep dangerous weapons off the street.”

Judge Frank Easterbrook of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed on an emergency basis Thursday to stay last week’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Stephen McGlynn, who’s based in southern Illinois, that blocked enforcement of the assault weapons ban.

But Easterbrook also invited lawyers to file further briefs on the matter.

The Illinois State Rifle Association, one of the plaintiffs in the litigation aiming to block the law, said in a statement that it was “frustrated” by the latest development. Still, it hoped that “once the court considers our position on the injunction and the law’s unconstitutionality” the law will again be on hold.

Their attorney, David Sigale, also said they hope to expedite the appeal process so the case can be heard “in full as quickly as possible.”

A separate challenge has reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

McGlynn found that the assault weapons ban not only restricts the right to defend oneself but also, in some cases, “completely obliterated that right.”

Lawyers representing the state appealed his ruling to the 7th Circuit on Tuesday asking that it be put on hold. They called it “unprecedented” and noted that it conflicts with two rulings earlier this year in Chicago’s federal court.

They also said it “is the only federal decision in the country” they are aware of that “enjoins restrictions on assault weapons” or large-capacity magazines under a decision by the Supreme Court last year.

That ruling, in a case known as New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, found that gun regulations must be “consistent with the nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”

State lawyers wrote that McGlynn’s decision “threatens significant, irreparable harm to the public.” The assault weapons ban was enacted in response to the mass shooting at Highland Park’s Fourth of July parade that left seven people dead.

They also wrote that McGlynn’s ruling followed, but did not acknowledge, the 7th Circuit’s recent decision not to block the law in a case that had reached it earlier.

That case involved Naperville gun shop owner Robert Bevis. U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall in Chicago denied a motion from Bevis in February that sought to block the assault weapons ban. Bevis then asked the appellate court to block the law, but it declined.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Lindsay Jenkins in Chicago issued a ruling that echoed Kendall’s.

The case involving Bevis, which started with Kendall, has moved on to the U.S. Supreme Court and Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

Bevis has asked the Supreme Court for an injunction against the state assault weapons ban and a similar Naperville ordinance while appeals in his case continue.

Barrett has asked opposing lawyers to respond to the request by Monday morning.

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