Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett could block Illinois’ assault weapons ban

By Peter Hancock 
Capitol News Illinois

The U.S. Supreme Court building is pictured in Washington, D.C.


SPRINGFIELD – A single justice of the U.S. Supreme Court is now weighing whether to block Illinois’ assault weapons ban from being enforced while the case is being heard in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who hears applications from the Seventh Circuit, could decide on her own whether to issue an emergency injunction or she could refer the question to the full court for consideration.

The case involves both the state’s ban on assault weapons and large capacity magazines as well as a local ordinance in the city of Naperville. Both laws were enacted in response to a mass shooting at an Independence Day parade last year in Highland Park. Although the state ban was temporarily blocked by the courts, both laws are currently in effect.

The National Association for Gun Rights, along with a local gun store owner in Naperville, challenged the Naperville ordinance shortly after it was enacted in August 2022 and then added the state as a defendant after the state ban went into effect in January. They argue that both laws violate the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

Their lawsuit sought a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to block enforcement of the laws. But on Feb. 17, Northern District Court Judge Virginia Kendall denied those motions, saying “particularly ‘dangerous’ weapons” like those banned under the laws are not protected by the Second Amendment.

The plaintiffs then appealed to the Seventh Circuit and asked that court for an emergency injunction pending appeal, but the appellate court rejected that motion on April 18. They next sought an injunction through the U.S. Supreme Court.

At the Supreme Court, applications for stays or injunctions are filed with a justice assigned to hear applications from that appellate circuit. In the case of the Seventh Circuit, that is Justice Barrett.

On May 1, Barrett requested more information from the state and the city. Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office, which represents both defendants, filed its response on Monday and the National Association for Gun Rights filed its reply brief Wednesday.

The state argues that the application for an injunction should be denied because the plaintiffs failed to show that they are likely to prevail on the merits of their claim, one of the requirements for granting an in junction.

“Nor could they, since this Court has not addressed a Second Amendment challenge to a law
similar to the (Protect Illinois Communities) Act,” the brief states.

It notes that two district court judges in Illinois, including Kendall, have refused to enjoin the act, and four district court judges in other states have declined to enjoin similar laws.

But on April 28, Judge Stephen P. McGlynn, in the Southern District of Illinois, granted a temporary injunction, although the Seventh Circuit later stayed that order while McGlynn’s decision is appealed.

The plaintiffs counter that they are likely to prevail on the merits of their case because the laws ban weapons that are commonly used for lawful purposes.

“AR platform rifles are just one of the many types of rifles banned by name and/or by feature,” they wrote in their brief. “At least 20 million AR-15s and similar rifles are owned by millions of American citizens who use those firearms for lawful purposes.”

Barrett has not indicated how quickly she will decide on the application or whether she will refer it to the full court for consideration.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of print and broadcast outlets statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.