Chicago Tribune article on the decision
Federal appeals court upholds dismissal of lawsuit challenging Cook County’s assault weapons ban
A federal appeals court in Chicago on Thursday upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit that challenged a ban on assault rifles in Cook County, saying the arguments were nearly identical to a previous failed suit brought against Highland Park.
In a 17-page ruling, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote the plaintiffs “have not come forward with a compelling reason to revisit our previous decision” in the Highland Park case, which set a legal precedent that was left in place when the Supreme Court refused to take up the issue in 2015.
The lawsuit filed by gun owners Troy Edhlund and Matthew Wilson contended that Cook County’s ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines was written so ambiguously that it could be broadly applied to almost any semi-automatic weapon, which is a violation of the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
In arguments before the 7th Circuit earlier this year, their attorneys said the lower court erred in dismissing the suit on the basis of the Highland Park decision, especially given that the “type, magnitude and frequency” of criminal threats faced by the 5 million residents of Cook County are vastly different than those in the affluent North Shore suburb.
The three-judge appellate panel, however, said the Highland Park decision didn’t take crime rates into account at all.
“Our discussion of self-defense focused instead on the availability of other means for citizens to defend themselves,” stated the opinion by Judges Kenneth Ripple, David Hamilton and Amy St. Eve. “This is a question answered by the particular locality’s laws, not by its crime rates.”
The ruling marks the latest in a 12-year legal saga for Edhlund and Wilson, who first challenged the Cook County ban in 2007 in state court. The Illinois Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s dismissal in 2012.
The suit was refiled in federal court in 2017 but dismissed last year by U.S. District Judge Manish Shah, records show.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs could not immediately be reached for comment.
The plaintiffs could still appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has turned decidedly more conservative since the high court declined to take up the Highland Park case four years ago.
At that time, two conservative justices, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, both said they would have heard the case and struck down the ban.