Judge Rules Village Can't Legally Ban 'Assault Weapons'
Deerfield, IL – A judge has ruled that the village of Deerfield overstepped its authority when it enacted a ban on assault weapons.
Lake County Circuit Court Judge Luis Berrones issued a permanent injunction on March 22 that blocked Deerfield from enforcing the new gun law, which was enacted in the wake of several active-shooter incidents across the country, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Illinois gun laws have undergone a massive overhaul in the last decade.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2013 ordered Illinois legislators to rewrite the state’s gun laws after a federal appeals court ruled a state law prohibiting concealed carry was unconstitutional, the Chicago Tribune reported.
At the same time, the Illinois state legislature declared that only the state had the authority to make gun laws, the Herald & Review reported.
Under the new law, existing gun ordinances in municipalities were allowed to stay on the books, but any new gun laws had to be passed before July 19, 2013. After that date, only the state would be able to make new gun laws.
It was five years after that law went into effect that Deerfield enacted its "assault weapons" ban, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Deerfield trustees who passed the new ordinance tried to claim their April of 2018 ban on such guns as the AR-15 and AK-47 was an amendment to an earlier ordinance that defined “assault weapons” and required safe storing and transporting of those weapons in the village.
However, gun rights groups and gun enthusiasts quickly filed lawsuits against the village that said Deerfield had missed its opportunity to ban those weapons in 2013, according to the Herald & Review.
The judge agreed with the plaintiffs. He ruled that the village of Deerfield’s measure was in fact a new ordinance and, therefore, preempted by state statute, the Herald & Review reported.
Berrones ruled that the plaintiffs had “a clearly ascertainable right to not be subjected to a preempted and unenforceable ordinance” that prohibited their possession of weapons, imposed fines, or allowed confiscation of their weapons.
Deerfield Village Attorney Steven Elrod argued that the 2013 state law was confusing and internally conflicting, the Chicago Tribune reported.
“In one part, [the statute] says the state preempts home rule and is exclusively regulating assault weapons. In the second place, it says if a municipality has adopted or does adopt a regulation within a certain time period, it can concurrently regulate,” Elrod said. “The way in which this judge resolves the conflict is by essentially cutting out the second clause.”
The attorney said he thought the ruling was more about “the judge’s perceived defects in the state statute than it is about anything the village of Deerfield may have done," the Chicago Tribune reported.
“Very importantly and significantly, the issue on which this case turns is not a challenge or claim that was brought by any of the plaintiffs,” Elrod said. “The judge reached this conclusion and makes this argument on his own.”
Village officials said they were planning to appeal their case to the Illinois Appellate Court, but they won’t try to enforce the ban in the meantime.
“This unprecedented interpretation of state legislative action and intent make this case ripe for appeal,” village officials said in a statement. “We continue to believe that these weapons have no place in our community and that our common-sense assault weapon regulations are legal and were properly enacted.”
The ruling was considered a victory for the lawsuits by some gun owners, the Illinois State Rifle Association, the Second Amendment Foundation, Guns Save Life, and the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, the Chicago Tribune reported.
However, the judge did not yet rule on one count of the lawsuit that argued the Deerfield ordinance represented an unconstitutional seizure of property.
A status hearing is scheduled for May 3, the Chicago Tribune reported.