In a significant blow to Democrats everywhere, a federal judge has temporarily halted enforcement of a controversial Illinois statute designed to – among other things – ban sales and distribution of so-called “assault-style” weapons, high-capacity magazines, and equipment meant to convert handguns into assault-style weaponry, as The Hill reports.
The law at issue, known as the Protect Illinois Communities Act (PICA) was signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) back in January and has already been the subject of significant legal challenges.
As National Review reported earlier this year, the bill prohibits possession of semi-automatic rifles, affords local law enforcement agencies the authority to add other, similar bans in the future, and requires owners of weapons that now fall under the restricted categories to register with state police.
Subsequent controversy over the statute has centered in large part on whether its provisions are consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court's 2022 decision in the case of New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, which held that restrictions on an individual's constitutionally protected right to carry a gun for self-defense are permissible only if they are in keeping with documented historical traditions and standards.
With that ruling in mind, U.S. Judge Stephen McGlynn issued a preliminary injunction Friday against enforcement of the law at issue, noting that while his was not a final adjudication on the merits, those challenging the statute met the necessary burden to win a temporary block on its implementation.
McGlynn acknowledged that the Illinois ban was passed in the aftermath of the devastating mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park but added that much of its contents are fundamentally inconsistent with the high court's holding in Bruen.
The judge asked, “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?”
“More specifically,” he continued, “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 judge also opined, as Fox News noted, “[Protect Illinois Communities Act] did not just regulate the rights of the people to defend themselves; it restricted that right, and in some cases, completely obliterated that right by criminalizing the purchase and the sale of more than 190 'arms.'”
McGlynn weighed arguments from the state suggesting that PICA does meet the Bruen “historical tradition” test in that assault weapons and large-capacity magazines did not exist when the Second and Fourteenth Amendments came into being.
However, the judge referenced prior Supreme Court rulings declaring that the Second Amendment covers all “bearable arms,” even those not in existence when the country was founded.
The decision was lauded by Erich Pratt, senior vice president of Gun Owners of America, a plaintiff in the case, who suggested that the judge's reasoning should put the governor and his allies on notice.
“Governor Pritzker and his anti-gun cabal in the legislature thought they could steam roll the Second Amendment, and this ruling makes clear that they abused their authority and infringed on their citizens' rights,” Pratt said in a statement, adding, “[w]e look forward to continuing this fight.”
Pritzker's office, for its part, said it is “confident that as the case continues, this critical public safety law will ultimately be upheld as constitutional,” and given the fact that another federal judge in the state recently reached the opposite conclusion from McGlynn's, stops at the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals – and perhaps ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court – may be necessary before this controversy is fully resolved.