A coalition of Illinois gun-rights groups is launching a legal challenge to Democratic governor J.B. Pritzker's extensive ban on so-called assault weapons, including AR-15s and certain pistols, arguing that the ban is unconstitutional.
The Illinois Gun Rights Alliance said Tuesday that it has retained lawyers specializing in firearm law to challenge the sweeping legislation, which Pritzker signed into law last week.
"This new law is divisive, unenforceable, and offers dubious efficacy as a crime-fighting tool," said group spokesman Mandi Sano, adding that the ban is a "dangerous infringement on the rights of the lawful citizen."
The group's legal challenge marks just the latest pushback to the "Protect Illinois Communities Act," which bans the sale and distribution of certain pistols, shotguns, and rifles, as well "high-capacity magazines" and "switches" that can make handguns automatic. At least 85 of the state's 102 county sheriffs announced they will not enforce the law.
Illinois became the ninth state to outlaw so-called assault weapons. While states such as California and Connecticut have fended off legal challenges to such laws, the bans face an uncertain future after the Supreme Court last year struck down New York's restrictions on concealed handgun carry.
Gun restrictions must be "consistent with this Nation's historical tradition of firearm regulation," Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in the majority decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, noting that contemporary attitudes about guns are not grounds for restricting a constitutional right.
Illinois residents who own the now-banned "weapons of war" must register them with police by Jan. 1, 2024, or face a Class 2 Felony. McHenry County sheriff Robb Tadelman said the ban puts sheriffs "in a bind"—if they enforce the state law, they will break their vow to uphold the U.S. Constitution.
"Neither myself nor my office will be checking to ensure that lawful gun owners register their weapons with the state, nor will we be arresting or housing law-abiding individuals that have been arrested solely with non-compliance of this act," Tadelman said.
Pritzker called the sheriffs' response "political grandstanding," saying last week that the law enforcement officials "won't be in their job" if they don't enforce the law.
The Democratic governor pointed to record-high crime in Chicago to justify the new gun ban, saying it will reduce gun-related violence. Kourtney Redmond, the Illinois state director of the National African American Gun Association, said Pritzker's ban is a "danger" to the state's law-abiding black residents, who will be unable to defend themselves in a "fair fight" with criminals.
"You're hindering people from being able to defend themselves," said Redmond, pointing to Pritzker's ban on rifles that hold more than 10 rounds and pistols that hold more than 15 rounds. "I'm sorry, but the criminal is not running around with 15-round magazines."
Last year, 496 fatal shooting victims in Chicago were black, adding up to more than 76 percent of gun homicide victims in the city.
Pritzker's office did not respond to a request for comment.