The battle over the enforcement of the Protect Illinois Communities Act — the new law that includes a state assault weapons ban — is set to intensify.
Multiple county sheriffs across the state have said they won’t enforce it. On Friday, a circuit court judge in downstate Effingham County issued a temporary restraining order blocking the new law — although that ruling only applies to the 850 plaintiffs and four licensed gun dealers named in the case.
Former Republican candidate for Illinois attorney general Tom DeVore, who is representing those plaintiffs as well as more than 1,600 others in a fresh complaint filed Monday, said the challenge to the law was not centered on the 2nd Amendment but rather procedural issues.
“To the extent that the 2nd Amendment is involved, it’s a gun regulation so it’s going to implicate the 2nd Amendment at some point in time in the federal jurisprudence,” said DeVore. “But as far as the state court goes, and the Illinois constitutional arguments, we’re dealing with a couple of procedural reasons saying that the law was passed procedurally in violation of (Illinois) constitutional principles. And then we also raise an equal protection argument over some of the exceptions that were put into this law.”
State Rep. Bob Morgan (D-Deerfield), one of the new law, says he’s confident that the Effingham court’s ruling will be overturned.
“I think that these claims have all been adjudicated in the past. These are almost identical to the types of claims that they had filed during COVID-19 which almost all of them – in fact I believe all of them — have been struck down by the courts,” said Morgan. “I think we are rehashing some of the same arguments about what the legislature should do and how. I’m confident this will be overturned.”
But DeVore disputed Morgan’s characterization of the lawsuits.
“We shouldn’t be comparing apples to oranges,” said DeVore.
Morgan said the legal challenges to the new law were inevitable, and noted that the current restraining order blocking the law’s implementation only applies to DeVore’s clients.
“This really is a pretty limited ruling,” said Morgan. “The law went into effect immediately to ban the sale of these semi-automatic weapons, the sale of these high-capacity magazines. So that is in effect for almost 13 million other people … There’s a number of lawsuits that are going to be filed. That was always going to be the case. I don’t think anyone’s surprised by that.”
Scores of Illinois county sheriffs have said they will refuse to enforce the new law claiming that it is unconstitutional, drawing the ire of Gov. J.B. Pritzker. But DeVore said it has always been within the discretionary power of sheriffs — as well as prosecutors — to determine their own law enforcement priorities.
“If a law enforcement official or a prosecutor decides not to make something a priority they’re going to do that – and they can be unelected by the people they represent possibly,” said DeVore. “It’s no different than when (Cook County State’s Attorney) Kim Foxx says she’s not going to charge a felony offence for anyone that doesn’t steal over $1,000 dollars in value of merchandise, even though the state law says $500 – it’s prosecutorial discretion.”
Note: This story will be updated with video.