Assault weapons bans are still not unconstitutional. For now.

By way of a 2 - 1 decision [PDF] last Friday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeal has temporarily upheld an Illinois assault weapons ban.

The Illinois Act makes it "unlawful for any person [except "trained professionals" and "grandfathered individuals"] within Illinois knowingly to 'manufacture, deliver, sell or purchase…an assault weapon, assault weapon attachment, .50 caliber rifle, or .50 caliber cartridge." The Act expressly applies to the AR-15 and to high-capacity magazines.

The issue came before 7th Circuit via three consolidated cases: Bevis v. City of Naperville, Herrera v. Raoul and Barnett v. Raoul. In two of the cases, Bevis and Herrera, federal district court judges denied motions for the issuance of a preliminary injunction whereas the district court, in Barnett, granted a preliminary injunction.

The 7th Circuit decision, authored by Judge Diane Wood, a Clinton appointee, and joined by Judge Frank Easterbrook, a Reagan appointee, overturned the Barnett preliminary injunction upon the grounds that the plaintiffs in all three cases had failed to establish a strong likelihood of success on the merits. (Michael Brennan, a Trump appointee, dissented.)

In order to show a likelihood of success on the merits, the plaintiffs in each of these cases…have the burden of showing that the weapons addressed in the pertinent legislation are Arms that ordinary people would keep at home for purposes of self-defense, not weapons that are exclusively or predominantly useful in military service…

While it doesn't amount to a final determination on the constitutionality of the assault weapons ban deployed in the Land of Lincoln, at a time of unbridled carnage --- there have been more than 565 mass shootings in the U.S. over the first 10 months of 2023 --- the reasoning applied by the 7th Circuit majority offers a glimpse, at least, of sanity...

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