On January 10, 2023, Illinois enacted HB 5471, the Protect Illinois Communities Act, which was effective immediately.  HB 5471 contains three primary provisions: (1) a ban on “assault weapons”; (2) a ban on .50 BMG rifles and ammunition; and (3) a ban on “large capacity” magazines. HB 5471 was initially introduced on January 31, 2022, solely as a bill to amend Illinois’ Insurance Code, without any reference to firearms related regulations. However, to avoid procedural requirements associated with newly introduced legislation, the Democrat controlled General Assembly substituted the insurance related language with the firearm regulations just two days before it was passed and immediately signed by Governor Pritzker. This was clearly an end-run by the legislature and the Governor to enact a law without the required procedural hurdles. Section 24-1.9 broadly defines numerous semi-automatic rifles, pistols, and shotguns as “assault weapons” based on having one or more prohibited features, as well as specifically banning numerous firearms by name.  It defines a “large capacity” magazine as any handgun magazine capable of holding more than fifteen rounds, and any rifle magazine capable of holding more than ten rounds.
Two lawsuits have been filed challenging the constitutionality of HB 5471 under the Illinois Constitution and the fundamental right to bear arms pursuant to the Second Amendment. One  of the lawsuits was filed in the Circuit Court for Effingham County, Illinois.  That complaint names more than 860 individual plaintiffs and seeks to enjoin state officials from enforcing the ban. On January 20, 2023, Judge Morrison granted a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) prohibiting the state from enforcing “all elements of HB 5471” against the named plaintiffs. The TRO only applies to the named plaintiffs; all other citizens of Illinois are still subject to the requirements of  HB 5471. In his TRO, Judge Morrison acknowledged that HB 5471 has effectively restricted the plaintiffs’ fundamental rights and that they “have shown a likelihood of success in relation to the equal protection clause of the Illinois Constitution and that the Defendant’s use of the criteria, especially those that [are] not evenly applied violated the face of the Supreme Court’s findings in New York State Rifle Association, Inc. v. Bruen.”  The case is set for a preliminary injunction hearing on February 1, 2023.  It has been reported that Illinois Attorney General, Kwame Raoul, has requested that the Illinois Appellate Court overturn the TRO.
In a separate complaint filed on January 24, 2023, in federal court in Illinois, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, along with several individual plaintiffs, is seeking to declare HB 5471 unconstitutional on the basis that it violates the Second Amendment pursuant to the Supreme Court’s Heller and Bruen decisions. The plaintiffs in this case are seeking a declaratory judgment that HB5471 is unconstitutional, a preliminary injunction enjoining state officials from enforcing the law while the lawsuit is pending, and a permanent injunction enjoining enforcement of HB5471 against the plaintiffs and their members.
Renzulli Law Firm, LLP will continue to monitor these cases and firearm related statutes and litigation around the country. If you have any questions concerning firearms related litigation, please contact John F. Renzulli or Christopher Renzulli.