The U.S. Supreme Court received an emergency petition on Wednesday, challenging the Illinois’ ban on certain semiautomatic rifles and magazines.
This petition was filed by the National Association for Gun Rights, firearms store owner Robert Bevis and his store Law Weapons & Supply, following a lower court’s denial of their request for a preliminary injunction against the statewide ban and a similar ban in Naperville, a Chicago suburb.
Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who handles emergency petitions from Illinois, had previously rejected a similar petition in May without comment from the Supreme Court or any public dissent from the justices.
The Illinois ban, enacted by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in January, prohibits more than 170 types of semiautomatic firearms, termed “assault weapons,” and magazines with certain capacities. The law mandates registration of grandfathered firearms by January 1, 2024, with noncompliance potentially resulting in criminal penalties.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled against the petitioners on November 3, suggesting that the Constitution’s Second Amendment applies to weapons intended for individual self-defense, not military use. The court described semiautomatic firearms and certain magazines as more akin to machine guns and military-grade weaponry than to firearms used for individual self-defense.
The petitioners responded to the 7th Circuit’s decision, arguing that the ruling was based on “stealth interest balancing” and failed to clarify how the banned weapons are “especially dangerous” or “militaristic.” They also referenced the Supreme Court’s 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, which concluded that laws banning weapons commonly used for lawful purposes are categorically unconstitutional.
In recent years, the Supreme Court has broadened gun rights in three landmark rulings since the Heller decision. In 2022, it recognized a constitutional right to carry a handgun in public for self-defense and struck down a New York state law requiring gun restrictions to align with the nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.
The governor’s signature on the law followed a shooting in Highland Park, Illinois, where a man used an AR-15-style rifle to kill seven people and injure others at a Fourth of July parade. Pritzker described the law as one of the “strongest assault weapons bans” in the U.S.
Bevis previously argued that the Second Amendment covers “arms that are commonly possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes, especially self-defense in the home.” He also claimed that the state law harmed his business, which might close if unable to sell popular firearms. U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall, before the initial appeal, deemed the ban “constitutionally sound,” stating that “assault weapons are particularly dangerous weapons” requiring regulation.
In a separate petition, Republican state lawmaker Dan Caulkins asked the Supreme Court to strike down the law, alleging bias in an Illinois Supreme Court ruling due to donations received by Justices Elizabeth Rochford and Mary Kay O’Brien from the Gun Violence Prevention PAC, which advocates for banning assault weapons and large-capacity magazines.
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