(The Center Square) – Plaintiffs challenging Illinois’ gun and magazine ban are reviewing their next steps to try and block the law after a federal appeals court vacated a lower court’s preliminary injunction.
In April, Southern District of Illinois federal Judge Stephen McGlynn blocked the state from enforcing the gun and magazine ban. Six days later, a Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals three-judge panel suspended that injunction and consolidated those cases with cases with different outcomes from the Northern District. After hearing the consolidated case in late June, the appeals panel on Friday vacated McGlynn’s injunction and said the state has a likelihood of winning the case.
“The State of Illinois, in the legislation that lies at the heart of these cases, has decided to regulate assault weapons and high-capacity magazines – a decision that is valid only if the regulated weapons lie on the military side of that line and thus are not within the class of Arms protected by the Second Amendment,” the prevailing appeals judges said.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker praised Friday’s decision as a victory for gun control efforts.
“This is a victory for the members of the General Assembly who stood alongside families, students and survivors who worked so hard to make this day a reality,” Pritzker said. “Now Congress must act so Illinois is not an island surrounded by states with weak protections.”
Kostas Moros, an associate attorney with Michel and Associates representing Federal Firearms Licensees of Illinois, Guns Save Life and other plaintiffs in the challenge, said the argument the prevailing appeals judges made that firearms used in the military could be banned has never been the standard when evaluating the Second Amendment.
“In fact, it’s quite nearly the opposite,” Moros told The Center Square Saturday. “For a while, commentators in the 19th century said that arms that are used by the military are the ones that are protected by the Second Amendment whereas maybe there’s more leeway to ban things like pocket knives or small, concealable pistols.”
Moros said with all the various plaintiffs groups impacted, they are evaluating their next steps, including seeking final judgment with a fuller record in the district court, going to the full appeals court or directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Illinois State Rifle Association said it was not surprised by the appeals court’s decision.
“It has always been and is our intent to take our case to the U.S. Supreme Court where we believe we can get a favorable ruling for law-abiding gun owners in Illinois,” a statement from ISRA said. “We will continue to stand up for the 2nd amendment & Illinois law-abiding gun owners and against our anti-gun Governor Pritzker and General Assembly. We will be working with our attorneys to take our appeal to the United States Supreme Court.”
Firearms Policy Coalition, which represents other plaintiffs in the consolidated challenge, said the appeals court’s decision shows “there is still more to be learned as the case moves forward, leaving the door open that victory is possible.”
“We are reviewing the opinion and plan to respond accordingly,” FPC said on social media. “We will continue to fight forward.”
While other challenges continue, the federal appeals court ruling Friday means Illinois’ gun ban remains in effect. Jan. 1 is the deadline to register banned firearms with Illinois State Police or criminal penalties could apply.
Moros said they were preparing a preliminary injunction motion Friday that the quick implementation of the registry rules violates due process when the appeals court dropped its ruling. He anticipates they’ll soon file that motion in McGlynn’s district court against the state.
“If they were willing to pass a quick amendment to the law saying ‘let’s delay registration a year so that we can see how these cases shake out,’ we think that would have been the reasonable move but they’re not doing that,” Moros said. “So we were left with no choice but to amend this complaint and bring this motion.”
Last month, a separate challenge in the consolidated cases brought by attorney Thomas Maag was heard in McGlynn’s district court. Maag is seeking an injunction of the law on grounds the law is unconstitutionally vague. A final judgment ruling in that case is still pending.
Public comments about the registry rules continue with the final hearing in Metro East St. Louis at Caseyville Village Hall Monday morning.