Why the Legal Fight in Illinois Matters So Much

posted on January 27, 2023
Jeramey Jannene courtesy Flickr

When a governor, along with a majority of a state’s legislators, decide to take a civil right from American citizens, they have decided to start a constitutional fight. In a constitutional republic with a bill of rights, such as ours, law-abiding citizens will then file suit. A legal fight with the potential to shape the law around the nation then ensues.

This is what is now taking place in Illinois.

On Jan. 10, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed a semi-automatic firearm ban into law. The legislation includes a requirement to register currently owned firearms with the state in order to continue to be able to lawfully possess them, along with restrictions on how, when and where one may legally possess or transport normal-capacity firearms’ magazines that are currently owned.

The NRA soon announced that it, and other Second Amendment organizations, had filed a lawsuit to challenge the unconstitutional law.

“The Supreme Court already ruled that the Second Amendment protects the right to keep arms that are commonly used by the people,” said John Weber, NRA Illinois state director. “Gov. Pritzker’s decision to ignore the court and sign this bill demonstrates a blatant disregard for the rule of law and a willful ignorance of the nightmare he and his anti-gun allies in the statehouse have created with their soft-on-crime policies.”

Among other things, the new law, which passed as H.B. 5471, bans semi-automatics used by millions of lawful Americans for recreation, competition and self-defense, as well as pistol magazines that hold more than 15 rounds of ammo and long-gun magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. The law would allow citizens who own the banned guns to keep them if they register them with the state and pay a fee.

This latest legal challenge comes just days after a judge in one Illinois county blocked the ban for participants in another lawsuit. On Jan. 20, Effingham County Judge Joshua Morrison issued a temporary restraining order blocking the new law.

Judge Morrison ruled that the law violates the state legislature’s single-issue rule, as well as the due process clause and equal protection clause of the Illinois constitution.

“Quite simply, the Defendants are infringing upon the lawful right of the Plaintiffs to keep and bear arms,” Judge Morrison wrote in his ruling. “The Plaintiffs have no adequate remedy at law in which to seek relief from the irreparable harm caused by the Defendants, for every day the Plaintiffs are subjected to these unconstitutional provisions, their freedoms and liberties regarding their rights to bear arms are being constrained and they are further being subjected to criminal prosecution.”

Judge Morrison’s ruling applies only to 850 plaintiffs listed in the lawsuit in Effingham County and four licensed gun dealers from the county. That lawsuit has about 1,700 plaintiffs.

Of course, legal challenges are not the only roadblocks Gov. Pritzker and his anti-Second Amendment politicians in the Illinois legislature are facing with their new gun-ban scheme. Shortly after Pritzker signed the law, county sheriffs throughout the state began uniting in opposition to the new law.

Not only did the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association speak out against the ban, but 85 of the state’s 102 county sheriffs have said they oppose the law and won’t enforce it.

In response, Gov. Pritzker warned that all law-enforcement officers in the state must enforce the law or they could soon be looking for other work.

“You don’t get to choose which laws you comply with in the state of Illinois,” Pritzker said during a news conference following signing the measure. “Of course, there are people who are trying to politically grandstand, who want to make a name for themselves by claiming they will not comply. But the reality is that the state police is responsible for enforcement, as are all law enforcement all across the state, and they will, in fact, do their job or they won't be in their job.”

Pritzker’s threats notwithstanding, the sheriffs opposing the law seem far more interested in protecting their constituents’ constitutional rights than worrying about the ire of the governor or lawmakers.

“My first and foremost priority is to the folks who live in this county,” Coles County Sheriff Kent Martin said in a recent telephone interview. “We need to stand strong. Once we allow our rights to start to be eroded away, that’s a dangerous path to start down.”

Of course, sheriffs aren’t appointed by the governor or the legislature; they are elected by citizens of their county.


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