CHICAGO - A downstate Illinois judge ruled Friday to pause the state's assault weapons ban, granting a temporary restraining order to some as the new law's legality is challenged.
Effingham County Judge Joshua Morrison issued the order after former Republican candidate for attorney general Tom DeVore sued to block the law.
Morrison’s ruling only applies to 850 plaintiffs listed in the lawsuit and four licensed gun dealers.
Gov. JB Pritzker said he was not surprised by Morrison’s ruling.
"Although disappointing, it is the initial result we’ve seen in many cases brought by plaintiffs whose goal is to advance ideology over public safety," Pritzker said. "We are well aware that this is only the first step in defending this important legislation."
Pritzker said he remains confident the courts will uphold the constitutionality of the law.
DeVore's lawsuit highlights four key issues on why the law banning assault weapons is invalid. The most pressing is the Equal Protection Clause, which exempts some people from following the law.
"The Court finds the Plaintiffs have shown a likelihood of success in relation to the equal protection clause of the Illinois Constitution," Morrison wrote in his 11-page ruling.
DeVore told the Chicago Tribune he believes that the judge "like many people in the state of Illinois have had enough of this."
"If the General Assembly wants to pass a law then do it in the wide open, don’t do it like thieves in the night and let everybody know what they’re doing and see what they’re doing and give them a chance to participate," DeVore said. "And I think that’s what the judge was trying to say and I look forward to this case as it continues."
In his ruling, Morrison cited a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision from last year that struck down New York state’s concealed carry law. That 6-3 ruling in New York Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen found that the "plain text" of the Second Amendment protected the right of the plaintiffs in that case to carry firearms for self-defense.
"Due to the speed with which this bill was passed, the effect to protected classes could not have been considered, nor could the Legislature have studied if this was the least restrictive way to meet their goal," Morrison also wrote.
Pritzker signed the law on Jan. 10 in response to the mass shooting that killed seven and injured 30 at the Highland Park July Fourth parade. The law bans dozens of specific types of rapid-fire handguns and rifles, .50-caliber guns, attachments and limits cartridges to 10 rounds for long guns and 15 rounds for pistols.
Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s lawyers argued the restraining order should be denied in part because the merits of the lawsuit would fail in court. The record will show the legislation was read publicly three times, that it covers a single subject — guns — and that the plaintiffs show no evidence that the exemptions for possessing the restricted weapons are doled out unfairly.
"The act’s exceptions for professionals with specialized firearms training and experience, such as law enforcement and members of the military, easily survive rational basis scrutiny," the state’s response said.
Mayor Nancy Rotering of Highland Park, where a mass shooting occurred on the Fourth of July, issued a statement:
"Our communities are under the constant threat of random gun violence. A common denominator in so much of our heartache and grief is assault weapons. Today’s court decision to grant a temporary restraining order against the State’s assault weapons ban is disappointing. After finally attaining some relief, political grandstanding and ego are standing in the way of our opportunity to regain some freedom to live free from fear.
It is sad that the plaintiffs in this and other cases filed feel it is more important to allow the public to access combat weapons than to protect our human right to live freely in our communities. I stand with the State of Illinois as it zealously defends the constitutionality of this law, the validity of which we are confident will ultimately be upheld."
Associated Press contributed to this report.