By Steve Gorman
(Reuters) – An Illinois judge temporarily blocked on Friday a newly enacted state ban on many semi-automatic firearms, a measure lawmakers swiftly passed after a gunman killed seven people and wounded dozens with an AR-15-type rifle at a July Fourth parade near Chicago.
In granting a restraining order, state Circuit Court Judge Joshua Morrison sided with hundreds of plaintiffs who challenged the law on grounds that unconstitutional legislative maneuvers were used to win its adoption in the Democratic-controlled state General Assembly.
The ban cleared the legislature earlier this month and was immediately signed into law by Governor J.B. Pritzker, also a Democrat, who had pushed for its enactment in the wake of last year’s Independence Day massacre in Highland Park and other mass shootings around the country.
In vowing to challenge the ban, the head of the Illinois State Rifle Association said the gun measure would hinder nearly 2.5 million firearms owners in the state.
Plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that legislative rules were circumvented when a bill to amend insurance codes was abruptly stripped of its contents and used as a shell for the gun measure, without hearings on it, the judge ruled.
“The defendants in this case did not follow the procedural requirements necessary for this legislation to stand up to the strict scrutiny that is required when restricting rights to avoid definitional irreparable harm,” Morrison wrote.
He noted plaintiffs’ assertions that the legislative tactics in question impaired a constitutional right to bear arms, a point that Pritzker and state Attorney General Kwame Raoul have disputed.
Pritzker issued a statement on Friday saying he was not surprised by the ruling but was confident the law would ultimately survive judicial review.
“Although disappointing, it is the initial result we’ve seen in many cases brought by plaintiffs whose goal is to advance ideology over public safety,” he said.
The new law bans selling many kinds of weapons that automatically load the next bullet after a shot, including semi-automatic rifles and pistols with detachable magazines. The law lists dozens of popular gun brands made by U.S. gunmakers.
Rifles that hold more than 10 bullets and pistols that hold more than 15 are also banned, as are rapid-fire attachments and .50-caliber guns. People who already own such weapons will be able to keep them but must register them with state police.
Eight other states and the District of Columbia have already enacted similar bans. Gun owners rights groups say the bans violate the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment “right to keep and bear arms” and that many law-abiding Americans have such guns for self-defense, hunting and sport.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston and Jonathan Allen in New York)