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Appeals court upholds restraining order on Illinois gun ban

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, a Democrat, plans to appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court

Assault style weapons are displayed for sale at Capitol City Arms Supply
Assault style weapons are displayed for sale at Capitol City Arms Supply on Jan. 16, 2013, in Springfield, Ill.Seth Perlman (AP)

An Illinois appellate court on Tuesday upheld a temporary restraining order on enforcement of the state’s three-week-old law banning semiautomatic weapons, enacted largely in response to the mass shooting at an Independence Day parade in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park.

A three-judge panel for the 5th District Appellate Court affirmed the restraining order issued Jan. 20 by a circuit judge in Effingham County.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, a Democrat, plans to appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court.

The Protect Illinois Communities Act prohibits the manufacture or possession of semiautomatic handguns and rifles. Those who owned them before the Jan. 10 effective date of the law must register them with the Illinois State Police by Jan. 1, 2024.

Hundreds of gun owners, merchants and advocates filed suit in Effingham, about 10 miles (160 kilometers) northeast of St. Louis, seeking the restraining order. They argued that the Legislature improperly enacted the law and that by exempting some classes of people – law enforcement, corrections officers, retired police officials – denied potentially millions of other gun owners equal protection under the law.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Thomas DeVore, a Republican who ran unsuccessfully last fall for state attorney general, said the equal protection argument under the Constitution’s 14th Amendment was persuasive in upholding the restraining order.

The law became a priority for Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Democrats who control the General Assembly after the Highland Park shooting, which left seven dead and injured 30.

Illinois is the eighth state, along with Washington, D.C., to restrict such guns.

The attorney general’s office said it would seek an expedited schedule of proceedings from the state’s high court.

“The Protect Illinois Communities Act is an important tool in what must be a comprehensive approach to addressing gun violence throughout Illinois, and we remain committed to defending the statute’s constitutionality,” spokesperson Annie Thompson said in a statement.

DeVore said the restraining order applies only to the plaintiffs, which include gun dealers that may continue selling the weapons, and that it must be followed by all circuit courts in the state, even outside the 5th District, unless an appellate court elsewhere holds differently.

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