News and Commentary

Judge Tosses Chicago Suburb’s Assault Weapons Ban

A Lake County Circuit Court judge has ruled that Deerfield, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, cannot enact a blanket ban on “assault weapons,” leaving progressive gun activists at a loss as to how to ban the AR-15.

According to WGN News, the Deerfield ordinance included a blanket ban on “assault weapons” and “high capacity magazines,” two terms that the gun rights groups who challenged the legislation said were inappropriately vague, as well as a ban on “semiautomatic rifles, semiautomatic shotguns and semiautomatic pistols with detachable magazines.” The ordinance fined anyone within the city limits of Deerfield $1,000 per day until they relocated their guns to a gun club or other holding facility outside the city.

The same judge issued an order temporarily halting enforcement of the ordinance almost immediately after it was enacted by the Deerfield city council, and after two Illinois-based gun rights groups filed suit.

The judge, Luis Berrones, issued a final, permanent injunction Friday preventing Deerfield from enforcing the ordinance, finding that the Deerfield gun owners had “a clearly ascertainable right to not be subjected to a preempted and unenforceable ordinance,” according to the Chicago Tribune.

The two gun owners who filed suit contended that Deerfield, Illinois — along with all other Illinois municipalities — had been given the chance to regulate “assault weapons” back in 2013 when the Illinois legislature passed an omnibus gun control bill after being ordered by both the Supreme Court and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to abandon their efforts to completely ban any kind of firearm.

At that time, the legislature passed the Illinois Concealed Carry Act — a heavily restrictive concealed carry scheme that requires hours of training and extensive background investigation — and the Firearm Owner’s Identification Card Act, which requires that any prospective Illinois gun owner register with the state and apply for a license simply to purchase a gun. The legislature added that any municipalities seeking more restrictive gun control measures —including Deerfield — do so sometime before July 19, 2013, when the new Illinois laws took effect.

Deerfield argued that they did not introduce new legislation, but that the ordinance was simply an amendment to their existing rules for Deerfield gun owners. Judge Berrones agreed with the plaintiffs that Deerfield’s assault weapons ban was a separate, new regulation which should have been enacted at the time, rather than just last year after the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

Deerfield officials were, of course, unsatisfied with the ruling.

“This unprecedented interpretation of state legislative action and intent make this case ripe for appeal,” Deerfield village officials said in a statement to media. “We continue to believe that these weapons have no place in our community and that our common-sense assault weapon regulations are legal and were properly enacted.”

The Illinois State Rifle Association thought differently.

“This is a big win for the 2nd Amendment,” their executive director said in his own statement. “The Village of Deerfield had an opportunity to pass a ban in 2013 and failed to do so. Their ordinance is a clear violation of Illinois’ concealed carry law which was passed into law precisely because of the Supreme Court’s ruling on what municipalities could and could not do in terms of establishing their own gun laws. Today’s ruling reaffirms the US Supreme Court’s ruling and makes it clear that communities do not have the authority to enact more onerous gun laws than what is already codified in state statute. This is a very good day for those of us who put a premium on the 2nd Amendment freedoms afforded to us in the Constitution.”

Deerfield officials say they’re investigating their options for appeal.

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