Gun advocates sue Deerfield, Illinois, for ban on semiautomatic assault rifles
Gun-rights advocates on Thursday sued an Illinois village over its new ban on military-style semiautomatic “assault” rifles and high capacity ammunition magazines, saying the ordinance not only stops purchases but could lead to confiscations.
The ban passed by the Deerfield Village Board earlier this week “flies in the face of state law,” said Alan M. Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, which sued along with the Illinois State Rifle Association and a Deerfield resident.
John Boch, president of Illinois-based Guns Save Life, also vowed to file a lawsuit.
“We are going to fight this ordinance, which clearly violates our member’s constitutional rights, and with the help of the NRA, I believe we can secure a victory for law-abiding gun owners in and around Deerfield,” he said.
Deerfield’s ordinance was billed as a response to the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, and other recent mass shootings where semiautomatic weapons were used.
“We hope that our local decision helps spur state and national leaders to take steps to make our communities safer,” said Mayor Harriet Rosenthal.
She said under state law they are allowed to update their existing ordinances, which had laid down markers requiring the safe transportation and storage of assault-style weapons and outlined some of the specific models the rules applied to, which included AR-15-style rifles and AK-47s.
The newly passed ordinance this week goes much further, saying the possession of such weapons in Deerfield is not “reasonably necessary” to protect an individual’s right to self-defense.
Owners are required to transfer weapons and high-capacity magazines outside of town, modify them so they no longer fall under what’s banned, or surrender them to the local police department.
The ordinance takes effect on June 13, and residents can face fines of up to $1,000 per day if they don’t comply within 60 days.
Police also have the power to confiscate and destroy the weapons and magazines, though the town says police officers will not make “door to door” checks to ensure people are complying.
The new lawsuit Thursday says the village is breaking state law, which allows for amendments to previous ordinances. The lawsuit says the outright ban goes far beyond an amendment.
“While the village is trying to disguise this as an amendment to an existing ordinance, it is, in fact, a new law that entirely bans possession of legally owned semi-auto firearms, with no exception for guns previously owned, or any provision for self-defense,” Mr. Gottlieb said.
The Supreme Court in 2008 ruled that Americans have a constitutional right to keep a handgun in their home for self-protection, and extended those rights to the states in 2010.
But the high court has declined since then to weigh in on lower court rulings upholding other similar bans on specific semiautomatic weapons — including an ordinance from Highland Park, another Illinois town that Deerfield says it modeled its rules on.
Gun-rights groups pointed to Deerfield’s new language that specifically allows police to confiscate the banned weapons as particularly concerning.
“This certainly puts the lie to claims by anti-gunners that ‘nobody is coming to take your guns,'” Mr. Gottlieb said.
The Deerfield ordinance includes a section saying the chief of police or his or her designee can confiscate any “assault” weapon of a person charged with violating the rules.
The town, though, says enforcement will initially involve public outreach and voluntary compliance, and that any potential search and seizure efforts have to comply with federal law.
The Highland Park version doesn’t include the exact same language, though it does say that weapons sold and transferred in violation of the ban “shall be seized and destroyed” and that the chief can destroy weapons or magazines “surrendered or confiscated” under the ban.
A divided Seventh Circuit appeals court panel upheld the Highland Park ordinance in 2015, saying it didn’t want to try to fill in what the Supreme Court rulings had arguably left open as to whether constitutional protections include a right to own certain semiautomatic weapons.
In December 2015, the Supreme Court declined to reconsider the case.
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