A day before its effective date, Deerfield’s gun ban was put on hold by a Lake County judge. (Updated with complete order.)
DEERFIELD, IL — A judge halted the enforcement of Deerfield’s ban on assault-style weapons Tuesday, a day before it was due to take effect. The order blocking the village from issuing fines or seizing guns came in response to a pair of lawsuits filed in Lake County Circuit Court by Deerfield residents backed by gun owner advocacy organizations.
Associate Judge Luis Berrones found that Deerfield’s 2018 ordinance was unenforceable, that it was not an amendment of the village’s previous ordinance regulating assault-style firearms and that – contrary to the village’s repeated claims – its recent ban does not ban large-capacity magazines.
The village had previously said those with prohibited weapons would need to remove them from municipal limits before June 13.
Deerfield Mayor Harriet Rosenthal directed village staff to draw up an assault weapons ban in the wake of a Feb. 14 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. She said the the state provided local municipalities the opportunity to amend local firearm regulations.
“Over four years ago, the state gave home rule communities a window of time to pass some type of assault weapon law with the understanding it could be revisited at a later date,” Rosenthal said, announcing the ban.
The relevant state law was put in place following 2013 legislation in Illinois laying out provisions for the lawful concealed carrying of firearms and establishing a firearms owners identification scheme after Chicago’s strict handgun bans were struck down in the U.S. Supreme Court.
“I believe the time has now come to revisit a complete ban of assault weapons,” Rosenthal said. “We hope that our local decision helps spur state and national leaders to take steps to make our communities safer.”
Under the law — the result of a compromise that allowed for the , local governments had a 10-day deadline to pass more stringent firearms regulations. Many towns balked.
Highland Park was ready to fight the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Deerfield passed a local ordinance defining “assault weapons” and mandating their safe storage and transportation.
Lawyers for the village argue that the provision in state law providing that local long gun regulations “may be amended” allow it to change its gun safety requirements into a ban.
But lawsuits filed by a pair of residents backed by state and national gun owner advocacy organizations have sought to block the Deerfield assault weapons ban from taking effect.
Daniel Easterday, a Deerfield resident who filed the first lawsuit challenging the ban, thanked the organizations who supported his case – the Illinois State Rifle Association and Second Amendment Foundation – for helping to put enforcement of the ordinance on hold.
“I am grateful to the judge for his decision to grant the temporary restraining order,” Easterday said. “The ISRA and SAF have taken a huge burden off the shoulders of lawful gun owning residents of Deerfield.”
“We moved swiftly to challenge this gun ban because it flew in the face of state law. The village tried to disguise its extremism as an amendment to an existing ordinance. The ordinance bans possession of legally-owned semi-auto firearms, with no exception for guns previously owned, or any provision for self-defense,” said Second Amendment Foundation founder Alan Gottlieb, in a release. “Worse, still, the ordinance also provided for confiscation and destruction of such firearms and their original capacity magazines. It was outrageous that the ban would levy fines of up to $1,000 a day against anyone who refused to turn in their gun and magazines or move them out of the village. This certainly puts the lie to claims by anti-gunners that ‘nobody is coming to take your guns.”
State Sen. Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield) has for years sought to repeal the state’s strict restrictions on municipal firearm bans.
“Yesterday’s court ruling is a major setback in our efforts to implement comprehensive gun safety legislation that addresses gun violence in all its deadly forms. Military-style assault weapons have no place in our neighborhoods, and communities should have the ability to ban them,” Morrison said in response to the ruling. “While I agree that a federal ban would be more effective in addressing a ban on assault weapons, how many Americans must die before Washington takes action?”
Executive Director of Guns Save Life Jon Boch, said he was “thrilled” that the judge had considered the facts of the case and legal arguments and looked forward to further litigating the case. He said he remained committed to eliminating gun bans that protect no one and merely make life difficult for law abiding citizens, while criminals continue to break the law.
“They’re uncomfortable with good guys with these guns, just like bigots in the 1950s were uncomfortable sitting next to black people in a public bus or in a classroom,” Boch said. “But fortunately and thankfully those bigots lost their efforts to maintain segregation here in America, and America is a better place for it.”
The judge found that some of the claims made in Boch’s suit were unsustainable. Writing that the plaintiff had “not raised a fair question with respect to his takings claim under the Illinois Constitution, the Eminent Domain claim or his Wildlife Code preemption claim.”
Part of the issue is that Deerfield asserts that its ordinance bans magazines that carry more than 10 bullets. The village also alleges that it closely modeled its ordinance on Highland Park’s. The neighboring town’s semi-automatic weapon ban was upheld in the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Freidman v. Highland Park. Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia were the only justices who sought to review the judgement upholding the constitutionality of a municipal assault-style weapon ban.
In addition to arguing that the plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of their claims that the ordinance does not actually ban large capacity magazines, lawyers for Wambacher argued it violated state eminent domain law.
“The village cannot point to an authorization pursuant to which it is acting, nor is it likely to try,” the lawyers wrote. “For even if it could identify a statute authorizing it to take arms for the purposes contemplated by this ordinance, and it cannot, it has followed none of the mandated procedures for condemning property.”
In such requests for injunctive relief, judges consider whether the suit was likely to succeed on its merits, whether someone would suffer irreparable harm were to take effect, whether there was a legal remedy available beyond money, according to a lawyer for one of the plaintiffs.
Berrones supported the challengers to Deerfield’s firearm ban, writing that plaintiffs would suffer irreparable harm, don’t have another adequate remedy and the balance of hardships favors the plaintiff because the harm they will suffer outweigh any harm to the village for delaying the effective date of the ordinance.
“Plaintiff has a likelihood of success on the merits by showing that the State has preempted the subject matter that the 2018 Ordinance seeks to regulate or that the language of the 2018 Ordinance does not prohibit possession or ownership of large capacity magazines,” the judge wrote.
Lawyers challenging the village questioned whether the village’s alleged ban on magazines containing more than 10 bullets actually existed in the text of the ordinance. In contrast to the Highland Park legislation, on which it was purported to be closely modeled, the Deerfield ordinance was limited to the possession or other use of a weapon. The relevant portion makes no mention of “high capacity magazines.”
Judge Berrones agreed.
“No where in the 2018 Ordinance is there any text that specifically prohibits possessing or owning a large capacity magazine,” he wrote.
“Deerfield’s claim that the 2018 Ordinance prohibits ownership or possession of any large capacity magazine fails because the 2018 Ordinance does not contain specific language prohibiting all large capacity magazines,” said the judge. If the ordinance had actually banned such magazines it would be preempted under state law anyway, according to Berrones.
A spokesperson for the National Rifle Association argued there is no such thing as a “high capacity magazine” or an “extended capacity” magazine. If it is being manufactured, the spokesperson told Patch, it is a “standard capacity magazine.”
On March 4, Deerfield issued a statement acknowledging the two lawsuits, filed April 5 and 19, challenging the ordinance banning “assault weapons and large capacity magazines.” It said the village believed it was within its legal authority and would response appropriately to the suit. The village issued a statement directly responding to Daniel Easterday’s April 5 suit.
Before filing the lawsuit, Easterday told the village board it wouldn’t make the community any safer to require him to store his weapons in another town.
“The legal gun owners in the United States are responsible for such an infinitesimal number of crimes that it can’t even be studied,” Easterday said. “There’s no tracking it.”
Deerfield did not issue a press release directly in response to the suit filed by Guns Save Life and John Wombacher.
“No additional statements will be made on this pending litigation at this time,” the village said after Easterday’s lawsuit was filed.
Deerfield issued the following statement in response to the June 12 order (below) from Judge Berrones:
“We are reviewing with our legal team the full written opinion that the judge entered. We will, of course, honor the order issued by the court and temporarily not enforce the ordinance,” Deerfield said. “But we are certainly going to review all of the options available to the village, including the right to appeal the decision to the Illinois appellate court.”