Devore presents argument against Illinois assault weapon ban, ruling expected Friday

Downstate attorney Tom DeVore speaks to reporters outside the Effingham County Government...
Downstate attorney Tom DeVore speaks to reporters outside the Effingham County Government Center on Jan. 18, 2023.(WGEM)
Published: Jan. 18, 2023 at 4:21 PM CST
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EFFINGHAM (WGEM) - An Effingham County judge heard roughly two hours of testimony Wednesday surrounding the lawsuit filed against the Illinois assault weapon ban. Former Republican Attorney General Candidate Tom DeVore is representing four gun stores and 862 individual gun owners who oppose the new law.

The downstate attorney argues that Democratic lawmakers passed the plan in an unconstitutional manner. Judge Josh Morrison said he needs more time to review the case and plans to make a ruling by the end of business Friday.

Morrison asked the Illinois Attorney General’s legal counsel several times if there is a federal law banning assault weapons. A federal assault weapon ban took effect in 1994, but it expired on Sept. 13, 2004.

DeVore noted that he isn’t focused on the Second Amendment for this case. However, he is asking the court to decide whether Illinois lawmakers violated the single-subject rule, three readings clause, and due process for the public when they passed the Protect Illinois Communities Act earlier this month.

The state argued that lawmakers did not break any laws by “gutting and replacing” the original language in House Bill 5471 and passing the proposal 48 hours later. Many political observers also know that it is fairly common for lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to file language into shell bills during the final days of a session in order to get plans passed quickly. Some may even call it the “Springfield way,” as leaders have used the tactic for several decades.

However, DeVore hopes this lawsuit will lead to a drastic change under the dome.

”It’s been allowed to go on for so long and it’s become so pervasive that they’re using it for bills that are having a significant impact on people’s rights - under the Bill of Rights in the Illinois Constitution,” DeVore said. “Just think if we were talking about a law limiting freedom of speech for the media, that would be a topic that would be very sensitive to everybody here standing with a camera in front of me. And so they would take that very seriously.”

DeVore said this is a very serious issue and he argues that lawmakers should always work in an open and transparent manner. He also argues that the Protect Illinois Communities Act violates equal protection for all gun owners because the language excludes law enforcement and active duty military from the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

Although, the state said this exception was included in the law as those individuals receive proper training to use assault-style weapons. DeVore quipped that trained people can do bad things just like un-trained people and he feels that argument in nonsense.

Morrison also said he was concerned that the new law will harm gun store owners by severely cutting their weapon sales.

“Once a business is out of business, there is nothing you can change,” Morrison said.

DeVore purposely filed the lawsuit downstate where he previously had favorable rulings against executive orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19. You can compare this to choosing your favorite store to buy groceries or clothes. Legal and political experts know that DeVore loves to shop for judges that will rule in his favor, similar to Gov. Pritzker choosing a higher court with Democratic judges that could side with him.

Former Republican gubernatorial candidate and state senator Darren Bailey was in the courtroom Wednesday. Bailey told the Capitol Bureau that he believes this lawsuit would succeed in any court, Effingham or Chicago.

”I do believe it would because at the end of the day, that’s what this is all about - the constitutional process,” Bailey said. “And if we trample the Constitution, then we are lost as a country and as a society.”

DeVore is working on behalf of clients from 87 counties across the state. If Morrison rules that a temporary restraining order is needed, the decision would only apply to DeVore’s 866 clients. Still, DeVore and Republican lawmakers feel this could set a precedent for other legal challenges to the legislative process in Springfield.

The Illinois State Rifle Association also filed a federal lawsuit against the ban Wednesday morning. However, that court battle will focus solely on the right to bear arms.

“Governor Pritzker and the legislators who voted for this law did this for self-serving political purposes and are not upholding the United States Constitution,” said ISRA Executive Director Richard Pearson. “The 2nd Amendment is fundamentally about self-defense, and the 14th Amendment is about not having our rights infringed. This new law makes criminals out of law-abiding citizens.”

The Pritzker administration believes the assault weapon ban will be found constitutional.

Statement from WGEM Vice-President and General Manager Ben Van Ness

If you were watching our Wednesday WGEM News at Six report on the Illinois assault weapons ban lawsuit filed by attorney Tom DeVore, we owe you an apology.

Reporter Mike Miletich ad-libbed while reporting live from Effingham to say in part, ‘...we are in downstate Illinois where they hate the media.’ That is not a fact. The facts show we have many loyal viewers who are very supportive of this television station.

Mike chose to express his opinion, which is not acceptable for a journalist working for this news organization. Our news division is disappointed by what was said, and our leadership team is addressing the matter.

Ben Van Ness

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