NRA sues over Illinois ban on semi-automatic weapons

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (TSTIME) — Illinois’ two-week-old ban on semiautomatic weapons bans “ubiquitous” firearms in “radical” violation of the Constitution’s Second Amendment, a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday by the National Rifle Association.

The powerful NRA joined a parade of gun rights activists trying to overturn the newly enacted ban on dozens of rapid-fire pistols and long guns, as well as large magazines or attachments.

Democratic Governor JB Pritzker signed the law into law on Jan. 10 in response to the deaths of seven killed during the Fourth of July parade in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, which also left 30 injured. He has said he believes the law will survive legal challenges over its constitutionality.

Two individual gun owners from Benton, about 9 miles northeast of St. Louis, are lead plaintiffs in the NRA lawsuit, the second filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. They are joined by two Southern Illinois gun dealers and shooting range operators, as well as a Connecticut-based shooting sports trade association.

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The NRA plea notes that the U.S. Supreme Court’s groundbreaking 2008 Heller decision refuses to allow any restriction on “guns in common use” today unless — another ruling found last summer — there is evidence of an “enduring American tradition” of limitation.

Illinois law “is taking the radical step of banning nearly every modern semi-automatic rifle — the most popular type of rifle in the country, owned by tens of millions of Americans,” the document said.

The 24 million semi-automatic AR-15 rifles in U.S. circulation far exceed the 16 million Ford F-150 trucks, the country’s top-selling vehicle, according to the lawsuit.

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A similar constitutional challenge was filed last week in the Benton-based Southern District. It was filed by gun owners and gun rights advocates.

Other lawsuits, filed in southern Illinois district courts, challenge the legislative process to pass the law.

Plaintiffs in all lawsuits likely seek Southern Illinois courts because of a stronger propensity for second amendment rights. Guns are viewed much more favorably in Central and Southern Illinois, where there are larger populations of hunters and sport shooters, compared to northern metropolitan areas, especially Chicago, where fatal small arms violence continues to be fought.

The NRA-backed lawsuit also argues that the law’s ban on high-capacity ammunition cartridges — no more than 10 cartridges for rifles and 15 for handguns — and a long list of attachments and other accessories is just as problematic because the guns in question can be used without they don’t work, so the add-ons are constitutionally protected “firearms” by inference.

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Pritzker and allies nationally refer to the guns as “assault weapons.” The plea points to the tradition of bearing arms and includes a glossary of terms. It explains that the limited semi-automatic weapons are not machine guns – expelling each round requires the trigger to be pressed individually.

It points out that detachable magazines date back to the Civil War and semi-automatic power is a century old.

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Follow political writer John O’Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor

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