Judge Lindsay Jenkins, nominated by President Biden to the Northern District of Illinois, rejected a motion for a preliminary injunction against Illinois state and local gun safety laws that restrict possession and purchase of dangerous assault weapons and ammunition. She ruled that the laws are likely constitutional even under recent Supreme Court precedent in her April 2023 opinion in Herrera v Raoul.
What’s the case about?
In response to “widespread mass shootings nationally,” including in Illinois, both the state and several communities enacted gun safety laws restricting the purchase and possession of assault weapons. These communities included Chicago and Cook County. Under the new provisions, residents cannot “carry, possess or purchase” specified assault weapons, mainly semiautomatic rifles and guns plus related large capacity magazines and ammunition. People who previously acquired such weapons can keep them as long as they comply with registration requirements and, under the city and county codes, remove them from city and county territory.
A number of pro-gun individuals and groups have filed lawsuits against these and other Illinois community gun safety measures. Javier Herrera of Chicago has challenged the Chicago, Cook County, and state provisions, including the registration and related requirements. His case was assigned to Judge Jenkins. He sought a preliminary injunction against all of them, claiming that they cause harm to him and violate Supreme Court precedent on the Second Amendment, particularly the Court’s recent decision striking down New York gun safety laws in the Bruen case.
How did Judge Jenkins Rule and Why is it Important?
After thorough review of the record, Judge Jenkins wrote a careful 31-page opinion rejecting the motion for a preliminary injunction and finding that the case against the gun safety provisions is “unlikely to succeed.” Using the standard set out in Bruen, she concluded that the challenged assault weapons and ammunition provisions are “consistent with ‘the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation,’” including the “history and tradition of regulating particularly ‘dangerous’ weapons.”
Judge Jenkins’ opinion carefully reviewed the history of regulation of dangerous weapons and ammunition in this country, going back to colonial times. Using “historical analogue[s]” as stated by the Bruen majority, she pointed to widespread regulation of comparably dangerous weapons and ammunition in the US, including “Bowie knives,” “gun silencers,” earlier semiautomatic weapons, and “large-capacity magazines.” Historical evidence going back to pre-colonial times, she went on, also supported the gun registration requirements. Overall, Judge Jenkins concluded, the provisions serve the public interest because they “protect public safety by removing” and regulating “particularly dangerous weapons” that continue to cause death and injury. Litigation in the case will continue, with the gun safety provisions remaining in effect.
Judge Jenkins’ opinion is important not only because it upholds, at least for now, significant gun safety laws affecting millions of Americans in Chicago and Illinois. The ruling also shows how federal judges across the country can and should reject attacks on such laws even under pro-gun Supreme Court precedent, setting an example that other judges will hopefully follow. The decision also serves as a reminder of the importance of confirming more fair-minded Biden judges like Judge Jenkins to our federal courts as soon as possible.