SPRINGFIELD — Downstate attorney Thomas DeVore, an unsuccessful Republican candidate for attorney general last year, has filed a second lawsuit challenging Illinois’ recently enacted ban on high-powered guns and high-capacity magazines.
The latest lawsuit was filed in downstate White County and lists more than 1,000 plaintiffs, including former state senator and GOP gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey and some 70 firearms dealers, who allege the new law violates the state constitution.
DeVore’s first lawsuit challenging the gun ban was filed in Effingham County, where a judge last week temporarily blocked the enforcement of the ban on more than 850 people and a handful of firearms dealers named in that action.
DeVore represented Bailey, who unsuccessfully challenged Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s bid for reelection in November, in a 2020 lawsuit challenging Pritzker’s COVID-19 mitigations.
Also among the 1,000-plus plaintiffs in the White County suit are two GOP state representatives, Adam Niemerg of Dieterich and Blaine Wilhour of Beecher City, both of whom aligned with Bailey during his time in the General Assembly as part of a group of far-right lawmakers from southeastern Illinois known as the “Eastern Bloc.”
The new White County lawsuit employs essentially the same argument as the action in Effingham County, including that the gun ban violates a constitutional requirement that legislation be confined to a single subject. Democratic lawmakers took a bill that was initially about insurance and overwrote it with the weapons ban during the final days of the General Assembly’s lame-duck session earlier this month.
The White County and Effingham County suits also allege that the ban violates the state constitution’s due process and equal protection clauses.
Both lawsuits name as defendants Pritzker, House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, Senate President Don Harmon and Attorney General Kwame Raoul, who won his reelection bid in November against DeVore.
At an unrelated news conference in Decatur on Tuesday, Pritzker dismissed the latest lawsuit as “just more of the same” and expressed confidence that the new law would ultimately remain in effect.
“These are folks who are in the superminority among the public, superminority in terms of elected officials, people who lost elections who (are) now seeing that they don’t like policy that they couldn’t win at the ballot box on, that they now hope that they can take to state court and win with a local judge,” Pritzker said.
“I think that they’ll lose in the end. This is a constitutional law. It’s been in effect in eight other states. We’re simply the ninth state to have passed and signed and put into law an assault weapons ban that will save lives,” he said.
The lawsuits from White and Effingham counties are among a handful of legal challenges, including a federal lawsuit filed by the Illinois State Rifle Association, to the gun ban that Pritzker signed into law on Jan. 10. At least two other federal lawsuits, including one that includes the National Shooting Sports Foundation among its plaintiffs, were filed Tuesday.
A hearing for the White County lawsuit is scheduled for Wednesday morning. A hearing in the Effingham County lawsuit is scheduled for Feb. 1.
Raoul’s office has filed an appeal with the state Appellate Court challenging the Effingham County judge’s decision in that case to temporarily block the gun ban from being enforced on plaintiffs in that lawsuit.
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