Illinois assault weapon ban: Emergency hearing held in attempt to stop new gun law from being enforced

CHICAGO (WLS) — An emergency hearing was held Wednesday to try to stop the new Illinois assault weapons law from being enforced.

At least three lawsuits have already been filed, with the latest one from the Illinois State Rifle Association. They are the first legal oppositions to Illinois’ new ban on assault weapons.

The first two suits were filed in state court. This latest challenge to the state’s assault weapons ban was filed in federal court by the Illinois State Rifle Association.

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In the Effingham County case, the attorney said his lawsuit is more so about the way this law was adopted, saying it is unconstitutional

The suit was filed by Tom DeVore, last year’s Republican nominee for Illinois attorney general, on behalf of hundreds of plaintiffs.

He’s also seeking an immediate temporary restraining order.

“The Illinois legislature wants to pass a law that restricts gun rights? Then they need to pass it procedural appropriate,” DeVore said.

DeVore said the lawsuit is not focused on federal gun rights.

“Whether a restriction is good, bad, illegal or not, or violates the Second Amendment, those are for the federal court. And right now, for the state court, these issues are just as big, dealing with the political gamesmanship and the lack of equal protection that’s going on right here in Illinois,” he said.

In another lawsuit filed in downstate Crawford County, Attorney Thomas Maag cites legal precedent.

“Firearms of these types that have traditionally been held for lawful purposes simply may not be banned,” Maag said.

Other groups, including the Illinois Gun Rights Alliance, are promising more lawsuits in federal court.

“We anticipate getting some type of injunctive relief very quickly once we file,” said Dan Eldridge, with the Gun Rights Alliance.

The suits name a number of defendants, including Gov. JB Pritzker and Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly.

The suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois by a St. Clair County resident, two gun stores, the Illinois State Rifle Association and two other organizations also names Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and other Illinois officials.

It calls the law unconstitutional, saying this assault weapons law was adopted for “self serving political purposes.”

The executive director of the ISRA said in a press release that “This new law makes criminals out of law-abiding citizens.”

Executive Director Richard Pearson goes on to say, “The real problem is that there are existing gun laws that do not work because they are not enforced.”

The gun legislation came about after a deadly mass shooting during Highland Park’s annual July Fourth parade.

Some practiced at the gun range Wednesday, with firearms that are no longer legal to buy. However, they are still legal to own if you bought them before the state’s assault weapons ban went into effect last week.

In the meantime, many shops have racks filled with guns — many of which can no longer be legally sold in Illinois are part of what the head of the Illinois Rifle Association said prompted a federal legal challenge to the state’s new assault weapons ban.

“There’s a great deal of anger in the state among firearms owners,” said Richard Pearson, with the Illinois State Rifle Association.

READ MORE: Gun dealers, advocates vow to take new IL assault weapon ban to court

Pearson estimates there are 2.5 million gun owners in the state. The association’s lawsuit filed late last night in the Illinois southern branch of federal court. It joins two other lawsuits filed earlier in state court challenging the new law.

Governor JB Pritzker said he remains confident the law will withstand challenges, pointing out that Illinois is the 9th state to pass an assault weapons ban.

“Assault weapons are killing literally dozens of people at a time and injuring many more. This is the type of weapon that should be kept off the streets,” Gov. Pritzker said.

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Many gun owners, however, said they have legally owned firearms for years, and now those guns suddenly have to be registered with the state and they can no longer buy accessories for them.

“There’s a variety of rights, property, 2nd amendment rights, and probably 4th amendment rights that this steps on,” Pearson said.

A number of county sheriffs around the state have publicly vowed not to enforce the new law, prompting an open letter signed by 16 state legislators, criticizing DuPage County Sheriff Jim Mendrick.

“They cannot pick and choose which laws they enforce. They must enforce them all,” said Rep. Maura Hirschauer, D-49th District.

“I don’t think we’re picking and choosing, I think it’s a matter of how we’re interpreting it,” Mendrick said. “I don’t think we’re interpreting this the same way.”

The office of Pritzker, who is at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, responded with a statement, saying, “The Governor is confident the courts will uphold the constitutionality of the Protect Illinois Communities Act. This legislation was the result of hundreds of hours of collaboration and cooperation between legal experts, legislators, and advocates, and it makes Illinois a safer place for every resident. Despite political grandstanding from those more beholden to the gun lobby than to the safety of their constituents, this law is in effect and protecting Illinoisans from the constant fear of being gunned down in a place of worship, at a parade, or on a street corner.”

This is expected to be a lengthy legal process, as several other lawsuits are expected to be filed.

The judge heard from both sides Wednesday and said he will rule on Friday.

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