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Illinois assault weapons ban spurs emergency application to Supreme Court

Advocacy groups say the ban on high-capacity weapons and magazines cannot be upheld under the high court’s precedents. 

WASHINGTON (CN) — Gun rights advocacy groups asked the Supreme Court on Monday to block a ban on assault weapons in Illinois, passed earlier this year in response to an Independence Day parade massacre where seven people were killed. 

The National Association for Gun Rights filed an emergency application to Justice Amy Coney Barrett, saying the ban contradicts the court’s precedents and the Constitution. 

“This is an exceedingly simple case,” Barry Arrington, an attorney with Arrington Law Firm representing the advocacy group, wrote in the application. “The Second Amendment protects arms that are commonly possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes, especially self-defense in the home.” 

Under the new law, the purchase and sale of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines are prohibited. Those who already possess these weapons will be allowed to keep them on their own property or approved sites like shooting ranges as long as they register them with the state police. Sales of ammo magazines with capacities larger than 10 rounds for long guns, and 15 rounds for handguns, will be immediately banned when the law is enacted. Violations of the ban carry criminal penalties including felony charges with three-year minimum jail sentences. 

Last term the conservative majority on the high court changed the standard for how gun regulations were evaluated under the Second Amendment. Instead of using the two-part categorical test the court laid out in District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008, courts have to conduct a historical analysis of analogous gun laws from the 1700s. The shake-up has left lower courts in disarray over the constitutionality of gun regulations while lawmakers attempt to combat shootings across the nation. 

The National Association for Gun Rights said the lower courts did not get the court’s message in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen, and now the justices should intervene again. 

“This Court intended Bruen to be a course correction and a reminder to the lower courts that the Second Amendment is not a second-class right,” Arrington wrote. “Unfortunately, if the 10 months of Second Amendment litigation since Bruen have taught us anything, it is that many of the lower courts did not get the message. This action is a case in point.” 

Gun advocacy groups rallied to block the ban before it went into effect, seeking a preliminary injunction back in November 2022. After Illinois enacted its ban on assault weapons on Jan. 10, gun rights groups filed a subsequent preliminary injunction request. 

The district court denied the group’s request, leaving the National Association of Gun Rights to appeal to the Seventh Circuit. The appeals court also declined the group’s injunction request. 

Millions of citizens own these weapons for lawful purposes, the advocacy group claims, but the district court ignored evidence to prove their rights to do so. 

“In the teeth of this Court’s precedents, the district court refused to address the evidence that the arms banned by the challenged laws are held by millions of law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes,” Arrington wrote. “The district court did not dispute the evidence; it simply ignored it.” 

While gun rights supporters say the bans fail under Heller and Bruen, the district court instead evaluated the new law under a different standard. 

“Instead of following Heller and Bruen, the district court went off the rails and invented out of whole cloth the ‘particularly dangerous weapon’ doctrine,” Arrington wrote. “Under the district court’s new doctrine, weapons that a court judges to be ‘particularly dangerous’ are unprotected by the Second Amendment. And since the semi-automatic rifles and magazines banned by Respondents are, in the district court’s judgment, particularly dangerous, Plaintiffs have no right to possess them.”

The advocacy group said semiautomatic rifles prohibited under the law are the most popular firearm in the country. If it were to be banned, then Heller would hold less weight, according to the group. 

“If the district court is correct and the second most popular firearm is not protected by the Second Amendment, this means that Heller is a one-off decision cabined to its facts,” Arrington wrote. 

The state’s gun regulations were passed in the wake of a mass shooting on Independence Day last year. Robert Crimo III was charged with seven counts of first-degree murder for firing over 70 assault rifle rounds into a crowd gathered for the Fourth of July parade in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park. 

The Supreme Court requested a response from the state due next week.

Follow @KelseyReichmann
Categories / Appeals, Civil Rights, Government, Law

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