Federal appeals court upholds Illinois assault weapons ban

A federal appeals court upheld Illinois’ assault weapons ban on Friday, arguing that the ban constitutes a reasonable limit on the Second Amendment, as is the case with laws over other rights.

“Government may punish a deliberately false fire alarm; it may condition free assembly on the issuance of a permit; it may require voters to present a valid identification card; and it may punish child abuse even if it is done in the name of religion,” Judge Diane Wood wrote in the decision. “The right enshrined in the Second Amendment is no different.”

Illinois passed its assault weapons ban last year after a mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Ill., near Chicago, which killed seven people and wounded dozens of others.

The law narrowly survived a challenge in the state Supreme Court and has since been challenged in federal courts.

The law was challenged in six separate suits, all headed by the appeals court together, arguing that the ban illegally limits gun rights. A federal judge disagreed, as did the appeals court Friday. The Supreme Court previously declined to see the case.

The debate over the law was centered on the interpretation of New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, last year’s Supreme Court decision which overturned sweeping sections of that state’s gun control legislation.

Plaintiffs argued that the court’s Bruen ruling determined that states could not ban weapons that were in “common use.” But Wood said in arguments that it was “very troublesome to have a popularity contest decide a constitutional principle.”

Wood’s decision was praised by gun control advocates and Democrats in the state.

Gov. JB Pritzker, who signed the bill in January, called the measure a “commonsense law.”

“Despite constant attacks by the gun lobby that puts ideology over people’s lives, here in Illinois we have stood up and said ‘no more’ to weapons of war on our streets,” he said in a statement Friday. “This is a victory for the members of the General Assembly who stood alongside families, students and survivors who worked so hard to make this day a reality.”

“Now Congress must act so Illinois is not an island surrounded by states with weak protections,” he added.

National gun control advocacy group Brady also celebrated the ruling.

“This is an important victory in the fight against gun violence, and a victory for all states and municipalities that are fighting to keep their residents safe,” the group said in a statement.  “States and cities should have the right to stop these weapons of war from decimating our communities, and this ruling demonstrates that assault weapon bans are indeed constitutional.”

But the case could still be taken up by the Supreme Court at a later point.

In a previous filing regarding the case, conservative Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas wrote in a statement that advocates “should not be deterred,” and that the court declining to step in was over procedural considerations rather than expressing a view on the merits of the case.

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