Haine pens amicus opposing assault weapons ban
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By Pat Pratt
Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Haine has filed an amicus brief siding with opponents of a recent state ban on many so-called assault weapons.
Amicus briefs, also known as “friend of the court briefs,” are filed by interested parties to support or oppose positions in ongoing litigation.
“As the duly-elected State’s Attorneys of our counties, we have a duty to seek justice,” Haine stated in a news release. “That duty includes protecting and defending the Constitutional rights of all citizens.”
Haine is serving as lead attorney in the brief, which has the support of prosecutors in more than 30 Illinois counties.
“Many Americans of good will continue to debate the merits of our Country’s broad-based culture of gun ownership,” the brief reads. Some fear that broad gun rights facilitate violence by criminals. Others contend that while the law should take aggressive steps to stop criminals, it must also respect responsible citizens’ right to own commonplace firearms as an effective means of self-defense against those very same criminals, making the public more secure, not less”
In January, Gov. JB Pritzker signed into law the Protect Illinois Communities Act. It bans the sale and distribution of so-called “assault weapons,” as well as .50 caliber rifles and ammunition. The new law lists specific firearms banned, more than 170 models in total. Residents who own firearms on the list can keep them, however, they are required to register the guns with Illinois State Police.
On March 3, Macon County Associate Judge Rodney S. Forbes ruled that the ban violates the equal-protection and special-legislation clauses of the Illinois Constitution. Pritzker is appealing to the state Supreme Court.
In a news release following the legislation, Pritzker pinned mass shootings and violence on the streets on assault weapons, saying the ban will create a safer state.
“No Illinoisan, no matter their zip code, should have to go through life fearing their loved one could be the next in an ever-growing list of victims of mass shootings,” Pritzker said. “However, for too long people have lived in fear of being gunned down in schools, while worshiping, at celebrations or in their own front yards. This legislation will stop the spread of assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and switches and make our state a safer place for all.”
Opponents claim the legislation punishes lawful firearm owners for the actions of criminals, who would find avenues to purchase assault weapons legal or not. Since its passage, the majority of county sheriff’s in the state, including Madison County Sheriff Jeff Conner, have stated they will not enforce the new law.
“Certain firearms – like the AR-15 – may seem strange and menacing to those with little experience with firearms, but they are quite normal and valuable to many millions of responsible, law-abiding Americans,” the amicus reads. “In fact, it is the experience of Amici as the chief law-enforcement officers of our respective Counties that the typical use of such firearms is self-defense and recreation — for which they are quite well-suited — and not violent crime.”
The brief is posted at the website of the Madison County State’s Attorney’s Office, www.madcosao.gov, and on the Illinois Supreme Court’s web page for high-profile cases. The state supreme court has agreed to expedite the litigation and a ruling is expected this spring.
“Like all Americans, Amici are horrified by the mass shootings and urban violence our nation has experienced,” the brief reads. “These are heartbreaking reminders of how much pain and sorrow violent individuals with evil intentions can cause. As prosecutors, we go to work every day to deter such crimes, do justice for victims, put those who would do harm to our communities behind bars, and protect everyone by strengthening the justice system and the rule of law.”