The Illinois State Police completed a round of public hearings in early November regarding the state’s assault weapons ban. Questions still surround what weapons are banned and what weapons must be registered by the December 31 deadline, and ISP is working to provide answers to all of the questions it has received. As part of the Protect Illinois Communities Act (“PICA”) that was passed in January 2023, Democrats picked a list of firearms they deemed unsafe to be assault weapons. Citizens who possessed the firearms devices now deemed banned by PICA are required to register them by January 1, 2024, or potentially face criminal penalties. The law banned the future sale and possession of more than 170 semi-automatic rifles, shotguns, and handguns; and magazines over 15 rounds for handguns and over 10 rounds for rifles.
The law is specific about the penalties that gun owners could face if they do not register their firearms. The first offense is a Class A misdemeanor, and a second or subsequent offense would be a Class 3 felony. ISP attorney Suzanne Bond was quoted at the Springfield public hearing as saying, “It will be up to each individual state’s attorney in the 102 counties to decide how they will enforce it.” Gun Owners in Illinois Are Now Required to Register Assault Weapons.
The public hearings came about after ISP published emergency rules regarding the registration process back in September. The online registration process started October 1, 2023, and in the first three weeks, less than one-tenth of one percent of the state’s FOID card holders had registered their semi-automatic firearms. The General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (“JCAR”) reviewed the emergency rules on October 17. After a vote to object to the proposed rules failed to pass the committee, which is evenly split along party lines, the members of the committee unanimously agreed on a motion requiring ISP to answer all of the questions the committee had received from the public and also required public hearings to be held on the proposed rules.
Following the three public hearings, ISP provided updates to JCAR on November 7. ISP informed JCAR that they will be updating their FAQ’s and will provide written responses to comments they have received. ISP will continue to accept written comments on the proposed rules until November 20.
The emergency rules governing the registry are set to expire February 11, 2024. Permanent rules must be approved by JCAR. ISP leaders assured JCAR members that they would provide more information and clarification at the December meeting.
“The ISP public hearings provided the department with real-life concerns from constituents who are afraid of being deemed a criminal, said Rep. Mike Coffey. ” This ban has many questions surrounding it and I think those who voted for it, likely don’t understand the magnitude of the rules that apply to law abiding citizens.”
The assault weapons ban has been challenged in state and federal court, with a federal appeals court, by a three-judge panel, declining to block enforcement of the ban by a 2-1 ruling on November 3, 2023. The Illinois Supreme Court upheld the law in August. A federal court case remains pending before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and the plaintiff gun rights advocacy group has stated it will be petitioning for a en banc hearing in front of the full 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.