Federal Judge Weighs Challenge to Illinois Gun Ban
Federal Judge Weighs Challenge to Illinois Gun Ban (East St. Louis, IL) (via The Center Square) — After hours of oral arguments Wednesday, a federal judge now has the case challenging Illinois’ gun ban with a ruling on a preliminary injunction expected in the weeks ahead. Plaintiffs say they are confident they’ll get the law overturned.
The law Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed and enacted on Jan. 10 bans more than 170 semi-automatic firearms and certain magazine capacities. Four plaintiffs groups that sued in federal court allege the law violates the Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms.”
Judge Stephen McGlynn for the Southern District of Illinois consolidated the cases and heard hours of arguments Wednesday in East St. Louis. He started the proceedings by showing several images that people could either say was a duck or a rabbit, or a young woman or an old woman.
“In my experience, these firearms cases have a lot of the same things,” McGlynn said. “People look at mass shootings and they look at gun regulations, some people zero in to just focus on the guns, others look to the victims.”
McGlynn said he has an open mind.
“I have not made up my mind,” he said before arguments were made. “It’s not my job to make policy decisions. My job is to make sure that the policy decisions of the legislative or executive branch are consistent with the constitution.”
Attorney Erin Murphy for the plaintiffs led most of the arguments and said the U.S. Supreme Court recently set the standard to what is considered arms in the Second Amendment and said semi-automatic firearms are arms and in common use by law-abiding gun owners.
McGlynn and Murphy debated the nuance of what limits are possible in firearm and magazine capacity, and whether such things like grenade launcher attachments or .50 caliber rifles should be banned. Attorney Thomas Maag for the plaintiffs argued the state’s definition of a grenade launcher is actually a flare launcher, which is common for methods of self preservation for someone getting lost to be found.
The state was represented by Christopher Wells who argued the banned firearms are more advanced than what the framers of the U.S. Constitution envisioned and they are dangerous and unusual. He argued that while firearms like AR-15s may be common, there’s more chance for them to get into bad actors’ hands. With what he said was an increase in mass shootings, that’s grounds for regulation.
On certain firearms being banned over others, McGlynn gave Wells several scenarios. One he gave was of a wife home alone with four intruders. The wife has a choice of a shotgun with three rounds, a handgun or an AR-15 with a 30-round magazine. McGlynn suggests the wife should use the 30-round AR.
“Who gets to decide,” McGlynn asked.
On certain firearms features like collapsible stocks being banned, McGlynn gave another scenario. Say a household has a tall husband and a short wife but one AR-15. Stock adjustment is necessary, McGlyyn suggested. Wells said there are benefits to such, but AR-15s have many other combined features he argued must be regulated.
Wells also suggested products like baby cribs that cause harm are taken off market. Such guns commit harm and should be taken off market too. McGlynn said baby cribs are not protected in the Bill of Rights.
McGlynn also noted that a bolt-action rifle is legal under Illinois’ gun ban, but U.S. President John Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 with a bold-action rifle shooting three shots in under a minute.
On Monday, one of the phases of the state’s gun ban kicked in. Those found with noncompliant magazines face a petty offense with a $1,000 fine. Those found with noncompliant firearms can face up to a Class 3 felony.
“That’s pretty darn steep,” McGlynn said.
Wells said ignorance of law isn’t a defense. McGlynn said prosecutors and sheriffs aren’t going to enforce the ban. Wells acknowledged some are suing the state. Wells countered the law regulates sales and is focused on gun manufactures and gun dealers. He said that’s where law will have some bite.
At the end of the hearing, McGlynn thanked the attorneys and said “there’s a lot to think about.”
“We see the victims and perpetrators and all want to see reduction of mass shooter crime, but from where I sit, I think we need to look at more than just the gun, but what are troubled teens doing, what medicines are taken, what are the red flags,” McGlynn said.
Attorneys for the state declined to comment after the hearing.
Gun rights advocate Todd Vandermyde said the judge’s questions show he knows the issues.
“I think it went well,” Vandermyde said. “I think that unlike what we’ve seen in a couple of the other cases, you have a judge who understands firearms. I think his questions showed he understands the nuance of this.”
Vandermyde said gun owners are irreparably harmed by limits on their ability to keep and bear arms and gun stores are harmed by losing 60 percent of sales in some instances.
Maag said the definition of “common use” is now up to the judge.
“These arms are all in common use,” Maag said. “AR-15s are in common use. Over 15 round magazines, I can’t think of a modern firearm that doesn’t use in excess of a 15 round magazine.”
Plaintiffs were confident they’ll get a preliminary injunction against the law. Whichever way McGlynn decides, it’s expected to be appealed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
Federal Judge Weighs Challenge to Illinois Gun Ban