On January 20, 2023, Judge Morrison of the Fourth Judicial Circuit in Effingham County ruled in favor of guns rights activists by issuing a temporary restraining order for HB 5471. HB 5471 is the gun control legislation that was recently signed into law by Governor Pritzker. The plaintiffs in the case are represented by Tom Devore, the former Republican nominee for Illinois Attorney General who was recently defeated by Kwame Raoul by double digits. The pair are now likely to continue to face off in court, as Attorney General Raoul’s quickly filed its notice of appeal.
Plaintiffs sought an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order, arguing that HB 5471 impairs their fundamental right to bear arms and was passed in violation of the Illinois Constitution. To prevail, the plaintiffs had to demonstrate that there is a clear right in need of protection, plaintiffs will suffer from irreparable injury, plaintiffs have no adequate remedy at law, plaintiffs is likely to succeed on the merits of its claim.
The bill, which is still categorized under “Insurance Code – Public Adjusters.” The case, which alleges issues under the Illinois Constitution, notes that the bill violates a range of requirements. These requirements include the “three reading requirement” and the “single subject rule.” The court notes that the defendants did not provide any evidence to show the legislative intent behind the bill.
An additional major component to the court’s decision involves the level of the scrutiny that should be applied. The defendants contend that there is no fundamental right in question, citing a 1984 case which found that gun regulations are not subject to strict scrutiny.1 The court notes that this standard is no longer applicable, as the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in 2021 that alleged issues pertaining to gun rights is subject to strict scrutiny review.
An additional important analysis involves the Illinois Supreme Court has recently established that strict scrutiny applies to alleged constitutional violations of gun rights.2 The court further notes the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision which struck down New York’s “proper cause” requirement could render the argument that rational basis review is the proper standard of review for a due process gun rights question as moot.3
The plaintiffs argued that HB 5471 is a restraint on their rights to deliver, sell, import, or purchase certain weapons, attachments, and ammunition, and/or manufacture, deliver, sell, or purchase large capacity ammunition feeding devices. The court found that the plaintiffs have a constitutional fundamental right that is subject to strict scrutiny and is protected by the Constitution of Illinois and the Constitution of the United States. This standard requires the government to prove the law is narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling state interest and that there are no less restrictive means available to achieve that interest.
Furthermore, the court found that the plaintiffs will suffer irreparable injury if the temporary restraining order is not granted. “To demonstrate irreparable injury, the moving party need not show an injury that is beyond repair or compensation in damages, but rather need show only transgressions of a continuing nature.”4 Further, the injury suffered “must be in the form of Plaintiff’s legal rights being sacrificed if Plaintiff is forced to await a decision on the merits.”5
Though the court concedes that the statute does provide ample time so far as it pertains to the requirement to register firearms with the Illinois State Police, it takes issue with the timing involving the prohibition on the sale or transfer of certain firearms, which was effective immediately when the bill was signed into law on January 10, 2023.
The court also found that the plaintiffs have a likelihood of success on the merits. According to the court, “the Defendants presented no evidence of legislative intent for the Court to consider. Furthermore, an examination of the Illinois Legislative General Assembly history of the bill provided no further information.” This lack of information and evidence makes it difficult for the defendants to prove that the law is narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling state interest and that there are no less restrictive means available to achieve that interest.
Decision and Impact
As a result of this decision, the court granted the temporary restraining order, temporarily blocking the implementation of HB 5471. Attorney General Raoul has already filed a notice of appeal, which should bring the case to be heard by the Fifth District Appellate Court.6 The case will continue to be heard in court, but this decision is a significant victory for gun rights activists in Illinois.
The outcome of this case could have significant implications for the future of gun control in Illinois and could serve as a precedent for both procedural and gun control cases. Notably this is not the only pending lawsuit against the law. The Illinois State Rifle Association also joined two other gun rights groups by filing a federal lawsuit in the Southern District of Illinois. It is also important to note that this lawsuit will only enjoin the 800 or so plaintiffs named in the lawsuit. It will not apply across the board to all people across the State of Illinois.
1 Kalodimos v. Vill. Of Morton Grove, 447 N.E. 849 (1st Dist. 1983)
2 Illinois Supreme Court in Guns Save Live, Inc. v. Ali, 2021 IL 126014
3 New York State Rifle Association, Inc. v. Bruen, 142 S.Ct. 2111 (2022)
4 Victor Twp. Drainage Dist. 1 v. Lundeen Family Farm P’ship, 2014 Ill. App. 2d 140009
5 Hough v. Weber, 560 N.E.2d 5 (2nd Dist. 1990)
6 Matt Stefanski, What’s Next for Illinois Assault Weapons Ban After Temporary Restraining Order Issued?, NBC CHICAGO, Jan. 21, 2023, https://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/whats-next-for-illinois-assault-weapons-ban-after-temporary-restraining-order-issued/3050977/