(The Center Square) – A downstate judge has declared Illinois’ “assault weapons” and high-capacity magazine ban as unconstitutional, setting up a direct appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.
The move means the law is not enforceable statewide pending appeal, according to attorney Jerry Stocks, who represents state Rep. Dan Caulkins, R-Decatur, in his challenge to the ban.
Following a status hearing Friday afternoon in the case, Macon County Judge Rodney Forbes signed an agreed order declaring the measure unconstitutional.
“Well-established Illinois authority provides that a law declared unconstitutional pursuant to a facial challenge is void, as if the law never existed, and is unenforceable in its entirety, in all applications,” Stocks said in a statement after the order was issued.
Forbes initially took the final order under advisement Friday, but he signed it a couple of hours later.
Forbes’ hands were essentially legally tied because Illinois’ 5th Circuit Court of Appeals already upheld an earlier ruling granting a temporary restraining order preventing enforcement of the ban against named plaintiffs only. But Stocks said Friday’s order is effective statewide.
The State of Illinois, which agreed to the language of the final order in the Macon County case, argues that the appellate court is wrong and wanted to get it before the Illinois Supreme Court as quickly as possible.
“Meanwhile, citizens are encouraged to proceed in the subject matter of the invalid legislation with caution and always are encouraged to seek the advice of his/her own counsel,” Stocks said.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker enacted the ban on certain semi-automatic weapons and magazines over certain capacities on January 10.
The measure also requires residents in Illinois who legally purchased such weapons before the ban to register them with Illinois State Police by January 1, 2024.
Two weeks after the ban went into effect, lawsuits were filed in federal and state-level courts.
The case argued Friday was brought by state Rep. Dan Caulkins, R-Decatur, and had a temporary restraining order in place barring the state from enforcing the law against named plaintiffs.
It is separate from three other cases brought by attorney Thomas DeVore in Effingham and White counties.
DeVore’s cases, which were consolidated by the Illinois Supreme Court, also have temporary restraining orders in place.
DeVore’s initial Effingham County case secured a temporary restraining order on several procedural issues and on an argument the law violates equal protections for exempting certain professions in security and law enforcement.
The state appealed and the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the temporary restraining order, but only for the equal protections argument.
That led to three other temporary restraining orders being issued, including in the Macon County case which dealt with the equal protection argument.
In federal court, four cases consolidated in the Southern District of Illinois have a hearing set for April 12.
The state filed its response to a motion for a preliminary injunction Thursday arguing the ban addresses dangerous and unusual weapons the Founders of the U.S. Constitution could not imagine in the 18th Century.
Plaintiffs argue the law violates the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.