Federal appellate court puts hold on ruling that blocked enforcement of Illinois gun ban

A federal appeals court in Chicago on Thursday put a hold on a ruling by a lower-court judge that blocked the enforcement of the state’s ban on many higher-powered firearms and large-capacity ammunition magazines.

The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision stops last week’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Stephen McGlynn from being in effect until further notice. Appellate Court Judge Frank Easterbrook, though, allowed lawyers in the case to file more briefs in response to the decision.

McGlynn, who sits in the Southern District of Illinois, on Friday granted a request from gun rights groups including the Illinois State Rifle Association for a preliminary injunction against the ban.

The Democratic-controlled General Assembly passed the sweeping gun restrictions in January, in response to last year’s deadly mass shooting at Highland Park’s Fourth of July parade.

McGlynn’s decision came after two federal judges in Chicago hearing separate legal challenges declined to issue injunctions. One of those rulings, by Judge Virginia Kendall, was in a lawsuit filed by Naperville gun shop owner that challenges both a local ban and the state law.

The 7th Circuit appellate court upheld Kendall’s ruling, and the gun shop owner has appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul cited the conflicting decisions in his motion for a stay against McGlynn’s injunction.

State Rep. Bob Morgan, a Deerfield Democrat who sponsored the weapons ban legislation in the Illinois House, welcomed Easterbrook’s decision.

“We know the fight isn’t over– the gun lobby will continue to try and block any common sense efforts to keep assault weapons off our streets,” Morgan said in a statement. “But we aren’t backing down, and this ruling only strengthens our resolve and confidence.”

David Sigale, a lawyer for the Illinois State Rifle Association, indicated that he and other lawyers challenging the gun restrictions will be responding to Easterbrook’s decision in the coming days.

“We are hopeful that when the Judge fully considers the issue in a few days after we have formally responded to the Motion for Stay, he will reconsider today’s ruling,” Sigale said in a text message. “At the same time, we will be seeking to expedite the Appellate process so that the matter may be heard in full as quickly as possible.”

In granting the injunction that the appeals court has now put on hold, McGlynn wrote that “a constitutional right is at stake,” and found that the gun rights groups had shown the weapons ban caused an “irreparable harm” by denying them the ability to “purchase their firearm of choice” and “exercise their right to self-defense in the manner they choose.”

McGlynn found unpersuasive arguments made by the attorney general’s office that various accessories subject to the ban, such as detachable magazines capable of holding more than 15 rounds of ammunition, are “nonessential” and should not be considered as “arms” protected by the U.S. Constitution.

The judge also didn’t find persuasive the attorney general’s office’s argument that the weapons ban was consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last year in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, which established a new constitutional standard holding that gun laws today must be historically consistent with laws on the books in the 18th century.

More specifically, McGlynn didn’t agree with the office’s assessment that the weapons ban was consistent with Bruen’s historical tradition clause, in that “neither large capacity (magazines) nor assault weapons were in common use” when the Second Amendment was ratified in 1791.

In its motion to delay the implementation of McGlynn’s ruling, Raoul’s office argued that the judge “failed to decide whether assault weapons are ‘bearable arms’ commonly used for self-defense.”

Raoul’s office also argued that McGlynn’s ruling failed to meet the burden in Bruen that the banned weapons were covered by the “plain text” of the Second Amendment protecting the rights of the plaintiffs to carry firearms for self-defense.

Raoul’s office argued that many of the banned weapons, such as AR-15 models, have similar capabilities as military-issued firearms and are, therefore, unnecessary for self-defense in a regular civilian setting.

“The massive amount of energy imparted by AR-15 rounds is far more than needed, and counterproductive, for self-defense,” Raoul’s motion states. “In fact, assault weapons are inherently dangerous in ‘a home defense scenario’ because they pose ‘substantial risks to individuals in adjoining rooms, neighboring apartments or other attached dwelling units.’”

Raoul’s office also argued that the magazines are accessories and not “arms” that fall within the scope of the Second Amendment.

The motion argued that McGlynn’s ruling relied on questionable research that justified how AR-15-style rifles could be used for self-defense.

McGlynn also failed to acknowledge previous 7th Circuit’s decisions that upheld “materially similar restrictions” on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in two other cases, according to the motion from Raoul’s office.

Other legal challenges against the weapons ban have been filed in state court, alleging that the measure violates the equal protection clause of the Illinois Constitution. One of the those cases is scheduled to be argued before the Illinois Supreme Court later this month.