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Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Illinois Supreme Court Upholds the Protect Illinois Communities Act

On August 11, 2023, the Illinois Supreme Court upheld the Protect Illinois Communities Act, an Illinois law that took effect on January 1, 2023, which prohibits the sale, manufacture, delivery, and import of assault weapons and large capacity magazines. The Act does contain exemptions for (1) trained professionals, such as law enforcement, correction, military, and privacy security and (2) "grandfathered" individuals who possessed assault weapons or large capacity magazines before the law took effect. Caulkins v. Pritzker, 2023 IL 129453.

A group of licensed pawn brokers, Illinois residents, and an association whose members possess valid Firearm Owner Identification cards challenged the new law in court, claiming it violated their equal protection rights and constituted special legislation. In March of 2023, a circuit court ruled in their favor, holding that the right to bear arms under the state and federal constitutions were fundamental rights, and that the law (1) denied plaintiffs equal protection by infringing on their gun rights, and (2) constituted special litigation by providing an arbitrary right to the exempt individuals while excluding plaintiffs. 

The case made its way to the Illinois Supreme Court on a direct appeal from the circuit court. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed the circuit court decision. First, the Supreme Court concluded that the law does not deny equal protection nor does it constitute special legislation because plaintiffs did not sufficiently allege that they are similarly situated to and treated different from the exempt classes. The Supreme Court noted that the law balances public safety against the expertise of the trained professionals and the expectation interests of the grandfathered individuals. Second, the Illinois Supreme Court found that the plaintiffs had waived any Second Amendment challenge to the law because their complaint failed to include a challenge under that provision of the U.S. Constitution.

Note that this new law does not change the legal landscape regarding municipal regulation of assault rifles, which we discussed in 2015 when we reported that Illinois preempted municipalities from enacting their own assault rifle bans. 

Post Authored by Molly Anne Krebs & Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink. 


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