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A federal judge has issued a temporary injunction blocking the state of Illinois’s new gun control law that bans so-called assault weapons, other commonly owned guns, and certain attachments; imposes magazine limitations; and requires already sold guns to be registered with the state.
The law, known as the Protect Illinois Communities Act (PICA), defines an assault weapon as a “semiautomatic rifle that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine or that may be readily modified to accept a detachable magazine” if it also has an attachment, such as one of various stocks or flash suppressors. Some semiautomatic shotguns and handguns are also banned.
The legislation limits the number of rounds a rifle magazine may hold to 10 while limiting handgun rounds to 15.
On the list of 190 banned weapons is the AR-15.
The law includes penalties for anyone who “Carries or possesses… Manufactures, sells, delivers, imports, or purchases any assault weapon or .50 caliber rifle.” Those who already own the banned guns do not have to turn them in but are told to register them with the state police.
Judge Stephen Patrick McGlynn of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois ruled in the case, writing,
“In no way does this Court minimize the damage caused when a firearm is used for an unlawful purpose; however, this Court must be mindful of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. PICA did not just regulate the rights of the people to defend themselves; it restricted that right, and in some cases, completely obliterated that right by criminalizing the purchase and the sale of more than 190 ‘arms.’”
A mass shooting in upscale Highland Park, Illinois, in July 2022 that left seven people dead and dozens more injured, had been cited as the reason for the law. Gov. J.B. Pritzker tweeted when he signed the law,
“I’m tired of living in a world where a mass shooting needs a title so you know which one we’re referring to. I just signed the Protect Illinois Communities Act, which immediately bans the sale and distribution of assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and switches in IL.
“No Illinoisan should have to go through life fearing their loved one could be next in an ever-growing list of mass shooting victims. We will keep fighting to ensure that future generations only hear about massacres like Highland Park, Sandy Hook, and Uvalde in their textbooks.”
That shooting and Pritzker’s frustration was not ignored by McGlynn, but the judge asked,
“Can the senseless crimes of a relative few be so despicable to justify the infringement of the constitutional rights of law-abiding individuals in hopes that such crimes will then abate or, at least, not be as horrific?”
“The Supreme Court in Bruen and Heller held that citizens have a constitutional right to own and possess firearms and may use them for self-defense. PICA seems to be written in spite of the clear directives in Bruen and Heller, not in conformity with them. Whether well-intentioned, brilliant, or arrogant, no state may enact a law that denies its citizens rights that the Constitution guarantees them. Even legislation that may enjoy the support of a majority of its citizens must fail if it violates the constitutional rights of fellow citizens. For the reasons fully set out below, the overly broad reach of PICA commands that the injunctive relief requested by Plaintiffs be granted.”
Erich Pratt, senior vice president of Gun Owners of America (GOA), one of the plaintiffs that brought the challenge, hailed the ruling, saying,
“Governor Pritzker and his anti-gun cabal in the legislature thought they could steam roll the Second Amendment, and this ruling makes clear that they abused their authority and infringed on their citizens’ rights. We look forward to continuing this fight.”
Pritzker’s office released a statement insisting that he and his team are “confident that as the case continues, this critical public safety law will ultimately be upheld as constitutional.”
The decision is the latest in various decisions in the several lawsuits that have been brought seeking to stop the ban. Only a few days before McGlynn’s decision, Northern District of Illinois Judge Lindsay Jenkins declined to grant an injunction in another challenge to PICA.
McGlynn’s ruling, which he mentioned is not a final ruling but only a temporary injunction, shows a loyalty to the Constitution above everything else.
These bans are unconstitutional and inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s decisions in Heller and Bruen. He raises existential questions that Americans must wrestle with. Mass shootings, as well as murders that occur virtually every day, by a criminal using a gun are horrific. Many people want to ban guns, or certain guns because they want to do something, anything, to stop these crimes.
This ruling, though, asks the nation: Are you willing to give away your constitutional freedoms for what some believe will lower the number of killings, and will passing gun bans like PICA actually serve to stop would-be criminals from killing others?
The opinion recognizes that some people will use guns for criminal and immoral reasons. If Americans are to be free to protect themselves from these criminals or the government via guns, that is a reality we must live with. As all of these recent injunctions show, the Second Amendment is a God-given right in our Constitution, and the only way to rescind it is for Americans to push for a constitutional amendment.
The problem, though, is that guns exist and they aren’t going away. Passing these laws will do little to keep them out of the possession of those who would use them to maim and kill. Moreover, evil exists, and, throughout the ages, people have used all variety of weapons to commit heinous crimes. A firearm allows victims a way to not only protect themselves from those who would hurt them, but also to potentially deter them.
McGlynn also raises important points about ways to stop these acts besides taking away the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens. He wrote:
“Nothing in this order prevents the State from confronting firearm-related violence. There is a wide array of civil and criminal laws that permit the commitment and prosecution of those who use or may use firearms to commit crimes. Law enforcement and prosecutors should take their obligations to enforce these laws seriously. Families and the public at large should report concerning behavior. Judges should exercise their prudent judgment in committing individuals that pose a threat to the public and imposing sentences that punish, not just lightly inconvenience, those guilty of firearm-related crimes.”
Members of law enforcement and the judiciary who are soft on violent criminals are not without fault in the epidemic of crime and violence. Those who push for defanging the Second Amendment want the easy option, which is to simply take away guns. What they need to do instead is the hard things, which involves dealing with societal problems, including mental health, criminality, and immorality, while also enforcing penalties on those who harm others.
The Pharisees and scribes questioned Jesus as to why His disciples didn’t follow Jewish traditions such as meticulously washing their hands before eating bread. He answered them in Mark 7:15, 21-23, saying,
“There is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man…. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.’”
Infringing on the Second Amendment won’t fix the crisis of violence America is experiencing — it will only leave law-abiding citizens without the means to adequately defend themselves. As such, governors and legislators should go back and write laws and policy that address the root of our current violence problem: the wickedness of men.
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.