A Collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh

Illinois Supreme Court allows challenge to assault weapon ban

The Supreme Court of Illinois [official website] ruled [text, PDF] Thursday that a challenge to a ban on assault weapons can continue, reversing two lower court rulings dismissing the challenge. The Cook County ordinance [text] in question prohibits the possession and sale of "assault weapons." The ordinance bans high-capacity, rapid-fire rifles and pistols and was amended in 2006 to include assault weapons with large magazines. The bill's supporters claim that such weapons should be banned because "there is no legitimate sporting purpose for the military style assault weapons now being used on our streets," and "assault weapons are twenty times more likely to be used in the commission of a crime than other kinds of weapons." Opponents of the ban claim they need these weapons for self-defense and sporting purposes. While the lower trial and appeals courts ruled that the ban was constitutional without proceeding through a full trial, the Supreme Court of Illinois ruled that the issue should be investigated further and the bill's challengers should be permitted to present evidence that guns with legitimate purposes are encompassed by the ban:

Plaintiffs seek to present evidence to support their allegation that this particular Ordinance encompasses a myriad of weapons that are typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes and fall outside the scope of the dangers sought to be protected under the Ordinance. Without a national uniform definition of assault weapons from which to judge these weapons, it cannot be ascertained at this stage of the proceedings whether these arms with these particular attributes as defined in this Ordinance are well suited for self-defense or sport or would be outweighed completely by the collateral damage resulting from their use, making them "dangerous and unusual" as articulated in Heller.
The case will be remanded to trial court in order to hear evidence from both sides as to whether the ban is constitutional.

The ruling is the latest in the continuing gun control controversy. In March, a federal judge in Maryland ruled a portion of a gun permit law unconstitutional [JURIST report]. Illinois citizens challenged [JURIST report] the Cook County ordinance in July 2010, just weeks after the US Supreme Court [official website] ruled that the Second Amendment applies to states and municipalities [JURIST report] in addition to the federal government, citing the holding in District of Columbia v. Heller [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report]. In Heller the Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment protects the right to possess a handgun in the home for the purpose of self-defense.

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.