Friday, August 11, 2023

Assault Weapons Ban Upheld as Constitutional by Illinois Supreme Court

Assault weapons and hand guns are seen for sale at Capitol City Arms Supply on Jan. 16, 2013, in Springfield, Ill. Seth Perlman/AP, FIL

The Supreme Court of Illinois upheld the constitutionality of a rigorous assault weapons prohibition enacted in the aftermath of the Highland Park shooting in a decision released on Friday.

This verdict was a reaction to legal action that argued the ban breached the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. Reversing an earlier court's ruling, the Supreme Court declared that the law does not contravene the equal protection provision. However, the court did not discuss allegations that the law also infringes on the Second Amendment.

The judgement, which split 4-3, was penned by Justice Elizabeth Rochford. She wrote, "Initially, we determine that the exceptions do not infringe on equal protection or represent special legislation, as the plaintiffs have failed to adequately assert that they are treated differently from those in the exempted categories. Secondly, the plaintiffs explicitly renounced in the lower court any separate claim that the limitations unlawfully restrict the Second Amendment. Thirdly, the plaintiffs' failure to submit a cross-appeal prohibits them from resurrecting their three-readings argument."

She summed up by stating, "Therefore, we overturn the lower court and find in favor of the defendants concerning equal protection and special legislation allegations."

The law being challenged forbids assault weapons, associated attachments, and .50-caliber rifles or cartridges – the kind of semi-automatic arms often utilized in nationwide mass shootings. It restricts the buying, selling, production, delivery, and importing of these firearms, with exceptions for law enforcement, military, corrections, and trained private security personnel.

Enacted as the Protect Illinois Communities Act, Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the law last year just hours after it was passed in a legislative session. This came following a tragic shooting on July 4 at a parade in a Chicago suburb where seven people lost their lives, and over 30 others were injured.

Governor Pritzker publicly expressed his satisfaction with the ruling shortly after it was released, praising the decision as "common-sense gun reform." He commented, "This law is intended to eradicate instruments of mass death from our streets, schools, malls, parks, and religious venues. The Protect Illinois Communities Act aims to ensure that residents across the state feel secure, whether at a Fourth of July Parade or on their way to work."

The legislation, effective since January, positions Illinois as the ninth state to ban assault weapons. The federal administration lauded the state legislators for the law's passage at that time.

Pritzker, victorious over Republican opponent state Senator Darren Bailey in the previous year's midterm elections to secure a second term, had built his reelection campaign on the commitment to more rigorous firearms regulations.

Previously, a lower court had found the law to be "on its face" unconstitutional, reasoning that the exemptions unjustly deprived the "law-abiding public" of equal protections.

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