The National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR), Illinois gun retailer Law Weapons & Supply and its owner Robert Bevis asked the US Supreme Court on Tuesday to block Illinois’s ban on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines. The request comes weeks after an appeals court upheld the law. It is the second time the groups have asked the Supreme Court to block the Illinois law after the court declined to do so in May. The lawsuit also challenges a local-level gun regulation in Naperville, Illinois.
NAGR and Bevis claim that Illinois’ law, the Protect Illinois Communities Act (PICA), violates the Second Amendment of the US Constitution and should therefore be declared invalid. They say the act is unconstitutional because it bans weapons and ammunition that “are possessed by millions of law-abiding Americans who overwhelmingly use them for lawful purposes.” They argue this common legal use and the lack of history of similar regulations make the law unconstitutional and ask the court to issue a preliminary injunction while the case continues to make its way through appeals.
In particular, NAGR and Bevis point to the Supreme Court’s recent decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, which struck down a New York gun permit law and established stricter standards for state legislatures to constitutionally regulate gun ownership. In Bruen, the court chastised lower federal courts for treating gun ownership as a “second-class right” and urged them not to give deference to state legislatures. NAGR and Bevis argue that lower courts have effectively ignored this, circumventing requirements set by the Supreme Court to uphold firearm regulations.
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed PICA in January 2023. The law prohibits the sale and manufacturing of assault weapon attachments, .50 caliber cartridges, any .50 caliber rifle and certain pistols. It defines assault rifles as any rifle that carries more than 15 rounds of ammunition. Pistols that carry more than 10 rounds of ammunition are also banned. Lastly, under PICA, anyone who was already in possession of newly outlawed weapons had until October 1 to report their ownership to the state government.
At the time of the law’s passage, Pritzker, Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch and Illinois Senate President Don Harmon issued a joint statement reading in part:
Gun violence is an epidemic that is plaguing every corner of this state and the people of Illinois are demanding substantive action. With this legislation we are delivering on the promises Democrats have made and, together, we are making Illinois’ gun laws a model for the nation.
Illinois passed PICA after a deadly mass shooting in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park during the city’s 2022 Fourth of July parade. The shooting killed seven people, injured dozens of others, ranging in age from 8 to 85, and sent shockwaves through a state and country reeling from repeated mass shootings. At a one-year commemorative event, Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering said, “Eighty-three rounds, one minute, that’s how long it took for a single individual to permanently alter dozens if not hundreds of lives forever. The impact of that one minute is incomprehensible.”
This is not the only litigation involving PICA. Soon after it was enacted, an Illinois state judge ruled that PICA violated the Illinois Constitution. However, the Illinois Supreme Court reversed this ruling in August.