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7th Circuit lifts injunction on Illinois assault weapons ban

Multiple legal battles over the ban are currently playing out at the state and federal level.

CHICAGO (CN) — The Seventh Circuit on Thursday temporarily lifted an injunction on Illinois' recently enacted assault weapons ban, allowing that ban to go back on the books for now.

The ruling, which reversed a decision made less than a week ago by a lower court, is just the latest development in a multipronged legal fight over the new rules.

Illinois lawmakers voted in january to approve the ban, which will not take full effect until 2024. With some exceptions, it prohibits the sale and ownership of firearms deemed "assault weapons" in Illinois.

Similarly, the law bars the sale and ownership of large capacity ammunition magazines — defined by lawmakers as those with a capacity of more than 10 rounds for long guns and more than 15 rounds for hand guns.

Political pressure to enact stricter gun control laws mounted in the wake of the 2022 Highland Park mass shooting. In that incident, local resident Robert Crimo III allegedly fired more than 70 rounds from his legally-owned assault rifle into the Chicago suburb's Independence Day parade, killing seven people and injuring dozens more.

The ban has seen a mix of wins and losses as the courts have wrestled over it. U.S. District Judge Stephen McGlynn, a Trump appointee, placed an injunction on the ban last Friday as part of a consolidated suit brought against the state by several gun store owners, gun rights advocates and a firearm trade association.

McGlynn's decision came only three days after U.S. District Judge Lindsay Jenkins, a Biden appointee, declined to enjoin the ban in a separate case brought by a Chicago-area physician.

There's another ongoing suit that also challenges a municipal version of the ban in the Illinois city of Naperville. On Monday, attorneys in that case separately asked the U.S. Supreme Court to enjoin both bans.

Now attorneys for all three cases are preparing to present oral arguments before the Chicago-based Seventh Circuit. Further state-level challenges to the ban are also pending.

Besides the multiple dueling lawsuits, more than two dozen county sheriffs across Illinois have also vowed to not enforce the ban, further complicating the situation.

"I, among many others, believe [the assault weapon ban] is a clear violation of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution," Brian VanVickle, sheriff of Ogle County in the northwest part of the state, said in January after the law was passed.

Therefore," VanVickle added, "neither myself [n]or my office will be checking to ensure that lawful gun owners register their weapons with the State, nor will we be arresting or housing individuals that have been charged solely with non-compliance of this Act."

The legal furor over the ban illustrates political and cultural divisions between the liberal Chicago area in northeastern Illinois and the often deeply-conservative rural and suburban communities further south and west.

Those divides were also evident in the language used in McGlynn's and Jenkins' contradictory rulings last week.

McGlynn, based in the largely rural Southern District of Illinois, said the ban violated the Second Amendment and would unduly hurt the profits of gun shop owners. He argued the criminal actions of one shooter do not justify stripping all Illinois residents of what he considered a foundational right to self-defense.

"Can the senseless crimes of a relative few be so despicable to justify the infringement of the constitutional rights of law-abiding individuals?" McGlynn wrote. "The simple answer at this stage in the proceedings is 'likely no[t].'"

Jenkins, working in the Chicago-anchored Northern District of Illinois, argued that constitutional concerns do not outweigh Illinois residents' right to public safety amid regular mass shootings across the United States.

A person seeking to stop the ban argued his constitutional rights would be harmed by "the enforcement of what he maintains is an unconstitutional law," Jenkins noted in her ruling. However, she opined that "none of the harms he identifies outweigh the overwhelming interest in public safety."

Further complicating the issue is the conservative U.S. Supreme Court's recent re-interpretation of firearm regulations under the Second Amendment.

In its 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, the court laid out metrics for evaluating whether gun restrictions were constitutional. It broke from that precedent last year in the case New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen, instead ordering lower courts to analyze gun laws in the context of a "historical tradition of firearm regulation" dating back to the founding of the United States and even to English common law.

That ruling was seen as a win for gun rights advocates, but it did not stop Jenkins from bolstering Illinois' stricter gun legislation. She cited Bruen to argue the United States had a "history and tradition" of restricting "dangerous" weapons.

For now, the Seventh Circuit has not yet waded into this quagmire. In its single-page order on Thursday lifting McGlynn's injunction, the appellate court did not provide legal or ideological justifications for its decision.

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