NRA-ILA On Wilson V. Cook County

The NRA-ILA released this statement on today’s unanimous ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court that reversed in part an Illinois appellate court ruling on the Cook County Blair Holt Assault Weapons Ban and remanded it back to the trial court level.

Fairfax, Va. – Today, the Illinois Supreme Court unanimously denied an attempt by Cook County, Ill., to dismiss a challenge to the county’s California-style ban on countless types of common semi-automatic firearms. The National Rifle Association supported the case brought by the NRA’s state affiliate, the Illinois State Rifle Association.

“We are very pleased with this ruling,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action. “Today’s decision makes clear that the lower courts shouldn’t take challenges to these laws lightly and that plaintiffs deserve a full opportunity for their evidence to be heard.”

In today’s decision, the court reversed a lower appellate court’s ruling that upheld the ban merely because it was supposedly similar to bans that had been upheld elsewhere. But of the three cases cited by the lower court, two relied on “facts” provided in legislative findings and testimony by anti-gun legislators and gun ban lobbyists; the third involved a challenge to federal regulation of fully automatic machine guns, rather than semi-automatic firearms.

Adopting a much more rigorous approach, the Illinois Supreme Court found it couldn’t say the guns banned by Cook County “categorically fall outside the scope of the rights protected by the [Second Amendment].” Therefore, the case will be returned to the trial court for more fact-finding.

Key to the final outcome will be evidence that the guns in question are “in common use” and “typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes,” which are the standards that the U.S. Supreme Court suggested would determine whether a particular type of “arm” falls within the Second Amendment’s protections.

On that issue, the numbers are overwhelming. Based on production statistics published by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, about 3.1 million AR-15 rifles have been made just since 1986, and AR-15s alone made up 4.3 percent of all firearms and 13.3 percent of all rifles sold in the U.S. from 2007 to 2010. The AR-15, of course, is just one of the many firearms banned in Cook County. These figures go to show that Cook County hasn’t just banned “common” guns; it has banned the most popular rifles of our time, used by countless law-abiding Americans for every kind of lawful purpose.

Wilson V. Cook County – A Partial Win

The Illinois Supreme Court issued its anticipated opinion this morning in the challenge to the Blair Holt Assault Weapons Ban. This is the ban on certain semi-automatic pistols, rifles, and shotguns in Cook County. The court affirmed the judgment of the appeals court that the Cook County ordinance did not violate the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment. However, it reversed the appeals court on one count on Second Amendment groups and remanded it back to the trial court in Cook County for further hearings.

Here is a summary of the opinion from the Illinois Supreme Court:

Wilson v. County of Cook, 2012 IL 112026

Appellate citation: 407 Ill. App. 3d 759.

JUSTICE THEIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Garman, Karmeier, and Burke concurred in the judgment and opinion.

The Illinois Supreme Court held that a second amendment challenge to Cook County’s ban on assault weapons could proceed in circuit court and should not have been dismissed at the pleading stage for failure to state a cause of action. No trial has yet occurred.

At issue is the constitutional validity of a Cook County ordinance enacted in 2006 and renamed the Blair Holt Assault Weapons Ban in 2007. Various plaintiffs opposed to the ordinance filed a preenforcement action seeking declaratory and injunctive relief based on their facial challenges to the ordinance’s constitutionality. It was claimed that the ordinance violates due process because of vagueness, denies equal protection, and is in violation of the right to bear arms, which is protected by the second amendment to the United States Constitution. The defendants responded with a motion to dismiss, which the circuit court granted. The appellate court affirmed the dismissal in 2011, and the plaintiffs appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court.

In this decision, it was held that the dismissal of the complaint counts alleging denial of due process and equal protection could stand, and the results reached in the courts below were upheld. However, as to the second amendment issue, the supreme court took a different view. At this early stage of the litigation, in the procedural posture of this case, it cannot be said conclusively whether “assault weapons” as defined by the ordinance fall within or outside the scope of the rights protected by the second amendment. This question requires an empirical inquiry that goes beyond the scope of both the record in the current litigation and judicial notice. The supreme court said that, at this point in the lawsuit, it cannot be said that no set of facts can be proved that would entitle the plaintiffs to relief. Neither has the County had an opportunity to present evidence to justify a nexus between the ordinance and the governmental interest it seeks to protect. Therefore, the circuit court’s dismissal of the complaint count based on the second amendment was improper and was reversed, as was that part of the appellate court’s judgment which affirmed the dismissal.

The cause was remanded to the circuit court of Cook County for further proceedings.

The full opinion can be found here.

I have read the full opinion and hope to post on it later. Now it is back to work to earn a living!

ISRA On Cook County’s Brief In Wilson v. Cook County

Wilson v. Cook County is the State of Illinois case challenging Cook County’s Blair Holt Assault Weapons Ban. It was remanded back to the the First District Appellate Court for reconsideration based upon the McDonald decision.

Here is the Illinois State Rifle Association’s take on Cook County’s brief which they released this morning.

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Appellate Court defense of the county gun ban (Wilson, et. al. v. Cook County, et. al.) got off to a bad start when briefs filed by the county before the First District Appellate Court were found to contain factual errors. More specifically, these factual errors included the misquoting of U.S. Supreme Court decisions in the DC v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago cases. (The ISRA was a Plaintiff in McDonald). When these errors were brought to light by the plaintiffs, the county hastily filed a motion to withdraw the erroneous briefs in favor of amended versions. Presently, the plaintiffs in the case have moved to strike the amended briefs as the amendments do not remedy the ramifications of the misquotes contained in the original set of briefs. In fact the County may have used their own “errors” to further violate the Court’s rules and to additional arguments and bolster existing arguments in their amended brief.

“We find it interesting that the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office would blame ‘electronic errors’ for the tainting of its briefs with misquotes,” commented ISRA spokesman, Richard Pearson. “This situation is made all the more curious given that the misquotes would fundamentally alter the intent of two landmark Supreme Court decisions – D.C. v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago. In the county’s briefs, the two high court decisions are erroneously quoted as addressing ‘common handguns’ whereas the decisions, as written, do not contain the phrase ‘common handguns.’ There is a clear difference when one addresses handguns versus ‘common’ handguns in that the latter would drastically reduce the types of firearms whose ownership is protected under the Second Amendment.”

“If I were a cynic,” continued Pearson, “I’d suggest that these ‘electronic errors’ were just poorly executed attempts by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office to re-write the Heller and McDonald decisions more to Mayor Daley’s liking.”

The ISRA is the state’s leading advocate of safe, lawful and responsible firearms ownership. For more than a century, the ISRA has represented the interests of millions of law-abiding Illinois firearm owners.

How the heck can an electronic filing system be responsible for misquoting Supreme Court decision? Does the Cook County State’s Attorneys Office have some sort of computer-generated, artificial intelligence system with a random quote generator that writes its briefs? I sincerely doubt that a computer is at fault here. I guess this is just another of the gifts from Cook County and the City of Chicago like President Obama, Mayor Daley, and Andrew Traver.

In Illinois Gun Rights News…

This was just announced this morning by the Illinois State Rifle Association:


A case brought against Cook County, challenging its “Assault Weapon” ban passed in 2006, has finally been decided favorably for the ISRA backed Plaintiffs. The case of Wilson, et al. vs Cook County et al., was returned to the State Appellate Court pursuant to the Supreme Court’s exercise of its judicial authority, and the First District Appellate Court has been ordered to vacate its decision and reconsider the case based on the recent decision in McDonald vs. City of Chicago. McDonald was a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court in which ISRA was one of the Plaintiffs.

In a move that surprised all parties to the litigation, the First District Appellate Court ordered both plaintiffs and defendants to file simultaneous briefs in 15 days, with no Reply briefing allowed. The Appellate court’s Order came within days of the Supreme Court’s issued mandate, which directs the Appellate Court to vacate and reconsider.

The purported “assault weapons,” as defined under the very broad and vague terms of the subject County Ordinance, include numerous semi-automatic handguns and rifles, including the Ar-15, M -1 Carbine, Smith & Wesson P99 pistol, Smith & Wesson 22A, Browning BAR Longtrack, Winchester Super X Rifle, and the Mini-30 Ranch Rifle. just to name a few Since the lawsuit was filed in early 2007. the enforcement of the Ordinance has been at a virtual stand-still, and the objective of the ISRA to see that this unwarranted ban is overturned with finality. A supplementary brief is being filed and the decision of the Appellate Court is expected soon. If required, ISRA is prepared to back this case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

 On September 29th, the Illinois Supreme Court sent this back to the First District Appellate Court with an order to vacate its original decision and to reconsider it in light of the McDonald case. They said:

No. 109314 – Matthew D. Wilson et al., petitioners, v. Cook County, etc., et al., respondents. Leave to appeal, Appellate Court, First District.
Petition for leave to appeal denied.

In the exercise of this Court’s supervisory authority, the Appellate Court, First
District, is directed to vacate its order in Wilson v. Cook County, case No. 1-08-1202(08/19/09), and reconsider the matter in light of McDonald, et al. v. City of Chicago, 130 S.Ct. 3020 (06/28/10), to determine if another result is warranted.