On Friday, the Illinois Supreme Court maintained the state’s prohibition on certain high-powered firearms, including AR-15-style rifles. This is a huge win for those who advocate for stricter gun control in Illinois.
The Democrat governor, J.B. Pritzker, approved the strictest gun control laws in the Midwest in January. After a major massacre in Highland Park, Illinois, in 2022, in which a shooter murdered seven people and injured dozens more with a high-powered rifle during a Fourth of July parade, the prohibition received widespread support among Democratic politicians, who dominate the state legislature.
The Giffords measure Centre, which advocates for gun regulations, reports that after the measure was approved, Illinois joined the ranks of the 10 states that have an assault weapons prohibition of some kind.
Many semiautomatic firearms, including AR-15-style rifles, are now illegal to acquire in Illinois, however exception were made for active and former law enforcement officers, military members, and corrections officers. The Illinois State Police set a deadline for anyone who already hold restricted firearms to report them.
Gun owners in Illinois are already obliged to get a licence from the State Police.
Republican state legislator Dan Caulkins headed a group of gun owners who claimed the restriction was unconstitutional because it did not apply uniformly to all citizens, as stipulated in the State Constitution.
On Friday, a 4-3 majority of the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in favour of upholding the legislation, saying that allowing exemptions for law enforcement and persons who already possess illegal firearms did not violate the equal protection section of the Constitution.
Conservative counties in Downstate Illinois have been particularly vocal in their opposition to the gun prohibition, with several sheriffs pledging to not fully implement the legislation.
While Illinois has among of the country’s toughest gun prohibitions, each state’s regulations can only go so far. Chicago officials have long blamed Indiana, which has more lax gun restrictions, for the illicit firearms used in the city’s massacres.
The Supreme Court’s ruling in a New York case last year has been used by critics of the Illinois bill as proof that the state’s broad gun prohibition will not hold up in court.
The Supreme Court overturned a restrictive New York regulation on carrying firearms outside the house in the case New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, ruling that Americans had a constitutionally protected right to bear arms in public.
The governor issued a statement praising the ruling, saying it was a victory for advocates, survivors, and families since it would keep in place a law that was considered groundbreaking at the time.
A federal appeals court is currently considering objections to the statute. Several federal cases, alleging that such broad limits on weapons violate the Second Amendment.
The executive director of a pro-gun rights group in Illinois, Richard Pearson, said in a statement that the court’s ruling came as “no surprise.”