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Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Appellate Court Upholds Village of Deerfield's Assault Weapon Ban

An Illinois Appellate Court recently issued a ruling in favor of the Village of Deerfield on a challenge to its assault weapon and large magazine ban. Easterday v. Village of Deerfield.

In 2013, the Village of Deerfield passed an ordinance regulating the storage and transportation of assault weapons in the Village. The ordinance did not ban these weapons, however. The ordinance was adopted pursuant to the Village's home rule powers and was intended to fall under a state law enacted in 2013 that provided a window for municipalities to ban assault weapons. According to the appellate court ruling, the Village was not ready to impose a total ban on assault weapons but wanted to preserve the right to do so in the future through an amendment to this 2013 ordinance.

In 2018, the Village adopted two ordinances amending the village code to prohibit the possession, manufacture, transfer, transport, storage, or keeping of any assault weapon or large capacity magazine. The Village provided a 60 day grace period for persons to come into compliance with the new ordinance.

Shortly after the ordinances were adopted, Easterday and Guns Save Life sued the Village to challenge the ordinances. These two cases were consolidated. The lawsuits brought a variety of legal challenges to the assault weapon ban, including that it was preempted by state law and was an unconstitutional "taking," among other claims.

In 2019, the trial court issued an injunction prohibiting the Village from enforcing the ordinances. We wrote about that ruling on the blog here. The court determined that the ordinances were preempted by the FOID Card Act and the Concealed Carry Act (both state laws). 

The Village appealed, and the First District Appellate Court issued its ruling on December 4, 2020. 

After addressing a number of jurisdictional and procedural issues, the Appellate Court addressed the preemption argument under the FOID Card Act. Deerfield argued that the FOID Act expressly authorized municipalities to regulate assault weapons under the following language in section 13.1(c): 
(c) Notwithstanding subsection (a) of this Section, the regulation of the possession or ownership of assault weapons are exclusive powers and functions of this State. Any ordinance or regulation, or portion of that ordinance or regulation, that purports to regulate the possession or ownership of assault weapons in a manner that is inconsistent with this Act, shall be invalid unless the ordinance or regulation is enacted on, before, or within 10 days after the effective date of this amendatory Act of the 98th General Assembly. Any ordinance or regulation described in this subsection (c) enacted more than 10 days after the effective date of this amendatory Act of the 98th General Assembly is invalid. An ordinance enacted on, before, or within 10 days after the effective date of this amendatory Act of the 98th General Assembly may be amended. The enactment or amendment of ordinances under this subsection (c) are subject to the submission requirements of Section 13.3. For the purposes of this subsection, ‘assault weapons’ means firearms designated by either make or model or by a test or list of cosmetic features that cumulatively would place the firearm into a definition of ‘assault weapon’ under the ordinance.
According to Deerfield, any home rule unit that regulated assault weapons within the window specified in section 13.1(c) will retain their concurrent regulatory power. Deerfield argued that it had retained that authority when it adopted its initial ordinance regulating the storage of assault weapons in 2013. The Appellate Court agreed with the Village, finding that the legislature had reserved certain powers to home rule units as a "hybrid" regulatory scheme. As a result, the Appellate Court found the trial court had erred in ruling against the Village on this preemption issue because the Village had preserved its rights to regulate assault weapons when it adopted the 2013 initial ordinance.

On the issue of the Village's ban on large capacity magazines, however, the Appellate Court found that the Village was preempted by the FOID Card Act and the Concealed Carry Act to the extent that the ban regulates ammunition for handguns.


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