The Illinois Supreme Court on Friday upheld a Democratic-backed ban on assault-style rifles and large-capacity magazines enacted after a deadly mass shooting in Chicago's Highland Park suburb in 2022 that left seven people dead and dozens of others wounded.
The state's high court in a 4-3 vote rejected arguments by a group of plaintiffs led by a Republican state senator, Dan Caulkins, that the ban violated the Illinois Constitution by not applying the law equally to all citizens.
Justice Elizabeth Rochford, a Democrat, said the constitution's equal protection and special legislation clauses did not bar the state's legislature from treating certain citizens differently than others by exempting them from the law.
Those exemptions applied to people who complete firearms training while employed in law enforcement, the military and private security and individuals who already owned the prohibited guns before the ban was enacted.
"The Act attempts to balance public safety against the expertise of the trained professionals and the expectation interests of the grandfathered individuals," Rochford wrote in an opinion that was joined by three of her fellow Democratic justices.
Right-wing arguments against the ban
Justices Lisa Holder White and David Overstreet, both Republicans, and Mary Kay O’Brien, a Democrat, dissented.
The plaintiffs also argued that the law violated the right to keep and bear arms under the US Constitution's Second Amendment. But Rochford said the plaintiffs waived that argument by not raising it at the lower-court level.
That Second Amendment argument is central to separate ongoing federal lawsuits challenging the Protect Illinois Communities Act, which Democratic Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker in January signed into law.
The law banned the sale and distribution of many kinds of high-powered semiautomatic "assault weapons," including AK-47 and AR-15 rifles, as well as magazines that take more than 10 rounds for long guns and 15 rounds for handguns.
The conservative-majority US Supreme Court last year in striking down New York state gun limits on carrying concealed firearms announced a legal standard that could make it more difficult for lower courts to sustain new or existing gun regulations.