Bid to block Illinois' new assault weapons ban now before federal appeals court
CHICAGO - The federal appeals court in Chicago has its first opportunity to weigh in on Illinois’ controversial assault weapons ban, as challenges to the law continue to advance.
Naperville gunshop owner Robert Bevis asked the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for an injunction against the law late Tuesday. He wants the order in place while he appeals a recent ruling from U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall who found the law to be "constitutionally sound."
Bevis asked that the injunction, if granted, apply to everyone affected by the state law.
The case appears to be the first to challenge the ban in the federal appellate court. The 7th Circuit now has the opportunity to block the measure signed by Gov. JB Pritzker on Jan. 10 — which immediately banned the sale of military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines — or to side with Kendall.
The court could also resolve Bevis’ request on other grounds.
Kendall ruled last month that "because assault weapons are particularly dangerous weapons … their regulation accords with history and tradition." But Bevis’ lawyers have accused Kendall of error. Under previous Supreme Court rulings, they said weapons must be found to be "dangerous and unusual" in order to be banned.
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"An arm that is commonly possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes is, by definition, not unusual," they wrote in their court filing Tuesday. "Thus, such an arm cannot be both dangerous and unusual and therefore it cannot be subjected to a categorical ban."
They told the 7th Circuit the matter "is not a close case."
It’s unclear how quickly the appeals court might rule. But Bevis’ lawyers insist his business has suffered since the assault weapons ban went into effect. They wrote that 85% of the firearms sold by his business, Law Weapons & Supply, are banned by the state law and a similar Naperville ordinance.
"Cash reserves have been depleted, and as a result, [Law Weapons & Supply] has had to lay off employees and ask Bevis’ family to work without pay," Bevis’ lawyers wrote. "Bevis has extended his personal credit, missed personal payments like home and car payments, maxed his credit limits, and taken out loans to pay the monthly bills."
They wrote that Law Weapons & Supply will not be able to abide by its property and equipment leases "if these bans remain in effect any longer."
"In short, [Law Weapons & Supply] will be put out of business if these laws are enforced," they wrote.
Bevis’ lawsuit is one of several challenges filed in state and federal courts since Pritzker signed the law. Four federal challenges have been consolidated in southern Illinois’ federal court, where state lawyers recently argued the weapons restricted by the new law aren’t commonly used for self-defense.
"By design and in practice, they exist for offensive infliction of mass casualties," they argued in a recent brief.
Meanwhile, the Illinois Supreme Court agreed this week to give accelerated consideration to issues that have been raised in state court. The move was prompted by an order last week by a Macon County judge.
That judge followed the lead of earlier Illinois appellate court rulings and found that the assault weapons ban violates the state constitution’s equal protection and special legislation clauses.