The ordinance enacted April 2 by the Deerfield Village Board gives residents until June 13 to turn in any guns that fit the village’s definition of assault weapons, remove them from the village or modify the guns so they’re no longer considered assault weapons. The ordinance empowers the town’s police chief to confiscate the assault weapons of anyone charged under the ordinance.
Owners found in violation can be fined up to $1,000 a day, according to the ordinance.
Two lawsuits were filed in April challenging the ordinance on various grounds, including a claim that the ordinance deprives gun owners of property they are legally entitled to possess. The plaintiffs in both lawsuits are asking for a temporary restraining order to block Deerfield from enforcing the ban until the court can hear their arguments for a permanent injunction.
A hearing to consider the restraining order motions is set for June 8, just days before the ban is set to take effect.
“The fast-approaching compliance date compels plaintiffs to seek more immediate and intermediate relief until this matter can be fully heard on the merits,” said attorney David Sigale in a petition on behalf of Deerfield gun owner Daniel Easterday, the Illinois State Rifle Association and the Second Amendment Foundation.
Sigale’s petition notes that Deerfield residents in possession of the those weapons face prosecution, confiscation and destruction of their property and hefty monetary fines.
“This causes significant harm to the plaintiffs in the form of loss of property rights and criminal penalties,” Sigale wrote in the petition.
Easterday attested that he would possess a semi-automatic rifle and large-capacity magazines in his home for self-defense and sporting purposes but for the Deerfield ordinance.
“I refrain from doing so because I fear confiscation of my property, as well as prosecution,” Easterday said in the affidavit.
His lawsuit is asking a Lake County judge to strike down the Deerfield ordinance primarily on the grounds that Illinois law preempts local municipalities from enacting bans that were not in effect as of July 19, 2013.
Deerfield officials have characterized the assault weapons ban as an amendment to an earlier ordinance that was approved within the permitted time frame, and that the state’s Firearm Concealed Carry Act specifically allows future amendments.
Both lawsuits claim the ban is not merely an amendment to the earlier ordinance that defined assault weapons and required safe storage and transportation within the village.
The second court challenge — which is supported by the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislation Action, according to an NRA press release — makes additional arguments. The suit filed by Guns Save Life and Deerfield gun owner John William Wombacher III asserts that Deerfield’s ban amounts to taking property without compensation, in violation of the Illinois Constitution and the Eminent Domain Act.
In an affidavit, Wombacher attested that he owns an AR-15, one of the banned weapons, and believes “it is a very good firearm for self-defense and can also be used for hunting.”
He said he will be irreparably harmed and deprived of his right to possess commonly-owned firearms for in-home self-defense and hunting under the Deerfield ordinance.
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The Guns Save Life lawsuit also is asking the court to find that the Deerfield ordinance does not ban possession of large-capacity magazines that aren’t affixed to an assault weapon, contrary to a village press release.
In the ordinance, the definition of an assault weapon includes, among others, semiautomatic rifles that have a fixed magazine with a capacity to accept more than 10 rounds of ammunition; shotguns with a revolving cylinder; and semiautomatic pistols and rifles that can accept large-capacity magazines and possess one of a list of other features. Among the dozens of specific models cited are the AR-15, AK-47 and Uzi, according to the ordinance.
The village of Deerfield included its rationale for amending the earlier ordinance to ban assault weapons within the law itself. The ordinance says that in the past five years, “assault weapons have been increasingly used in an alarming number of notorious mass shooting incidents at public schools, public venues, places of worship and places of public accommodation.”
The ordinance specifically mentions the deaths of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February; the fatal shooting of 26 people at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas; the 58 people killed at the music festival in Las Vegas last fall and the 49 people killed at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.
The Deerfield ordinance also notes that state and federal authorities have failed to regulate the possession, manufacture and sale of assault weapons. The ordinance says the local ban may increase the public’s sense of safety in public places and deter a mass shooting within village, notwithstanding objections that other weapons are available and a local ban is difficult to enforce.
The ordinance said the ban also may “increase the public’s sense of safety by effecting a cultural change which communicates the normative value that assault weapons should have no role or purpose in civil society in the Village of Deerfield.”