Sunday 30 April 2023

Federal Judge Blocks Illinois Assault Weapons Ban

 A federal judge in Illinois has blocked the state’s assault weapons ban from taking effect.

Judge Stephen P. McGlynn of the Southern District of Illinois issued a preliminary injuction against the Protect Illinois Communities Act (PICA) Friday, blocking it while a lawsuit proceeds. McGlynn ruled that the law likely violates the Second Amendment and Supreme Court precedents set by the Heller and Bruen cases.

“Can the senseless crimes of a relative few be so despicable to justify the infringement of the constitutional rights of law-abiding individuals in hopes that such crimes will then abate or, at least, not be as horrific?” McGlynn wrote. “More specifically, can PICA be harmonized with the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution and with Bruen? That is the issue before this Court. The simple answer at this stage in the proceedings is ‘likely no.’”

“The Supreme Court in Bruen and Heller held that citizens have a constitutional right to own and possess firearms and may use them for self-defense,” he continued. “PICA seems to be written in spite of the clear directives in Bruen and Heller, not in conformity with them. Whether well-intentioned, brilliant, or arrogant, no state may enact a law that denies its citizens rights that the Constitution guarantees them. Even legislation that may enjoy the support of a majority of its citizens must fail if it violates the constitutional rights of fellow citizens.”

First, McGlynn ruled against the law’s prohibition on “non-essential accessories” on firearms, such as threaded barrels, barrel shrouds, flash suppressors, or arm braces, as well as bans on 15-round handgun magazines. The state defended the law by contending that because they are not necessary to the function of a firearm, such accessories are not “arms” under the Second Amendment.

“The Seventh Circuit has recognized the Second Amendment as extending to ‘corollar[ies] to the meaningful exercise of the core right to possess firearms for self-defense,’” McGlynn ruled. “It is hard to imagine something more closely correlated to the right to use a firearm in self-defense than the ability to effectively load ammunition into the firearm. This Court agrees that magazines are ‘arms’ as used in the plain text of the Second Amendment.”

The judge also found that prohibiting accessories like arm braces, without any exceptions, interferes with the right of individuals with disabilities to use firearms. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives recognizes that stabilizing braces are necessary for disabled persons to use firearms. As such, the law fails to stand up to Second Amendment scrutiny. Furthermore, accessories that increase firearm proficiency, like pistol grips and flash suppressors, are also protected. The court also found that accessories, high-capacity magazines, and “assault rifles” like AR-15s and AK-47s are protected under “common use” because all of them have millions of units in circulation.

“The Court recognizes that the issues with which it is confronted are highly contentious and provoke strong emotions,” McGlynn concluded, noting that the injunction does not yet block the law on the merits. “Nothing in this order prevents the State from confronting firearm-related violence. There is a wide array of civil and criminal laws that permit the commitment and prosecution of those who use or may use firearms to commit crimes. Law enforcement and prosecutors should take their obligations to enforce these laws seriously. Families and the public at large should report concerning behavior. Judges should exercise their prudent judgment in committing individuals that pose a threat to the public and imposing sentences that punish, not just lightly inconvenience, those guilty of firearm-related crimes.”

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