NRA-Backed Suit Succeeds in Blocking Illinois Suburb From Banning Assault Weapons, High Capacity Clips

A picture of Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre is seen at the National Rifle Association (NRA) booth during CPAC 2019 February 28, 2019 in National Harbor, Maryland. The American Conservative Union hosts the annual Conservative Political Action Conference to discuss conservative agenda. Alex Wong/Getty Images

In a decision lauded by the National Rifle Association, a circuit county judge in Illinois struck down a local suburb's ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. The ruling puts an end, for now, to what has been a closely-watched legal battle over the ordinance.

The Village of Deerfield, which sits 25 miles north of Chicago, passed the ordinance banning AR-15 style rifles and other assault weapons from within its perimeters in April 2018, weeks after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting. But on Friday, Lake County Circuit Court Judge Luis Berrones sided with local gun owners who opposed the ban and issued a permanent injunction blocking it from going into effect.

Berrones said the local jurisdiction had overstepped its authority and maintained that the ability to make such a prohibition rested with the state. The National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action, which backed one of the legal challenges to the ban, claimed it as a victory.

"The NRA is proud to have supported this challenge to Deerfield's ban on commonly owned firearms and magazines," Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA's legislative arm, said in a statement. "This ruling affirms that every law-abiding Deerfield resident has the right to protect themselves, their homes, and their loved ones with the firearm that best suits their needs."

Though this particular ordinance isn't even a year old, the ruling involved matters that stretch back to 2013, when the State of Illinois set a deadline for local municipalities to establish firearm regulations.

At the time, the state created an open window for places like Deerfield to enact their own ordinances before new gun laws—the Illinois Concealed Carry Act and the Firearm Owner's Identification Card Act—vested those powers exclusively with the state.

In two legal challenges, those opposed to the ban argued that village trustees should have acted then and had since missed their opportunity.

Deerfield officials, meanwhile, argued that the weapons ban was an update to existing gun laws that were established within the appropriate timeframe. The weapons listed in the ban have been used in a rash of mass-casualty incidences, making them a public health and safety issue, they argued.

In a statement, the Deerfield leaders said they were exploring options and called the ruling "ripe for an appeal."

"...It appears that the judge focused less on Deerfield's actions and more on the actions of the Illinois State Legislature back in 2013. The judge took issue with the way in which the State Legislature drafted the State statute, and he read into the statute a complete preemption of home rule authority to regulate assault weapons. This unprecedented interpretation of State legislative action and intent make this case ripe for appeal."

Despite their disappointment, Deerfield officials are cooperating with the court's ruling, the statement added.

"We continue to believe that these weapons have no place in our community and that our common-sense assault weapon regulations are legal and were properly enacted. In the meantime, however, we will abide by the court's ruling and continue to not enforce our Ordinance."