Belleville News-Democrat

A federal judge in southern Illinois ruled Friday that the registration process for guns grandfathered in under the state’s sweeping ban on many high-powered weapons and high-capacity magazines should remain in place while litigation over the law continues to be hashed out in court.

The ruling had been expected after U.S. District Judge Stephen McGlynn, during a hearing earlier this month, indicated that he was not inclined to issue an injunction that would put off the Jan. 1 deadline for Illinois residents to register guns covered by the ban.

His decision means Illinoisans have a little more than a week to file “endorsement affidavits” on the state police website if they own guns or accessories subject to the ban. Violators are subject to a misdemeanor for a first offense and a felony for subsequent offenses.

McGlynn noted in his ruling that the gun rights advocacy groups who asked for the injunction will still have a chance to argue why the ban and its registry should not be enforced.

But temporarily blocking the enforcement of the registry, he said, would “create further delays in this litigation when the constitutional rights of the citizens demand an expeditious resolution on the merits.”

Dan Eldridge, president of Federal Firearms Licensees of Illinois, one of the advocacy groups that pushed for the injunction, said Friday’s ruling represents only another small step in what promises to be a longer fight over the constitutionality of the gun ban that ultimately could end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.

“There’s a lot of stuff in motion in here,” he said.

The gun ban’s supporters welcomed McGlynn’s decision.

“The gun lobby had been hoping the courts would salvage their access to weapons of war, but the Illinois assault weapon ban is here to stay and will reduce the gun violence to which we’ve become numb,” Democratic state Rep. Bob Morgan of Deerfield, one of the main sponsors of the gun ban, said in a statement.

In his 34-page ruling, McGlynn wrote that arguments that state officials didn’t give Illinoisans sufficient notice about the registration process, and that the process itself was too vague, didn’t meet the legal threshold for him to issue the injunction.

McGlynn wrote that the state police’s emergency rules set forth on the registry and the language of the weapons ban as a whole “are clear in what they prohibit, serious issues with the Second Amendment aside.”

The Illinois attorney general’s office had argued that the state fulfilled its legal obligation to properly notify the public about the registration process, noting that three public hearings were held and that the law, which went into effect nearly a year ago, spelled out the Jan. 1 deadline to register previously owned guns and accessories.

The registration requirement for residents who owned guns banned as of last Jan. 10 has met stiff resistance, although the degree of compliance is not possible to nail down.

The registration began on Oct. 1, and since then 8,143 gun owners have registered nearly 15,900 guns and about 8,350 firearm accessories or other firearm components covered by the ban, according to state records from Dec. 21.

The number of registrants represents about 0.34% of the 2.4 million people in the state holding firearm owner’s identification cards, the state-mandated permits that authorize residents to own guns.

The gun ban, passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker following a shooting at the 2022 Fourth of July parade in Highland Park that left seven people dead and dozens more injured, has been subject to legal challenges on the state and federal level.

Most court decisions have been in the state’s favor, although in April, McGlynn ruled the gun ban was likely unconstitutional. His decision was overturned last month by a three-judge panel from the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

A bipartisan legislative panel, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, has yet to codify permanent rules on the registry, meaning the state police’s emergency rules will remain in place until at least Jan. 16, which is when the panel will meet again.

Pritzker earlier this month stressed that “permanent rules are coming” and said he expects “that there’s a widespread understanding of what people need to do and to the exceptions, I would just argue, you’ll know the answers over the next month or so.”

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