In a Chicago suburb, legislators recently voted to ban the possessing, sale and manufacture of “assault rifles” and large capacity magazines. On Monday, in Deerfield, Illinois, the Village Board of Trustees voted on the measure, which may mean that any person in the jurisdiction who refuses to surrender the banned firearms will be fined as much as $1,000 per day until the guns are turned over to authorities or removed beyond the town limits. 

According to the ordinance approved by the board, the ban includes semi-automatic rifles with a magazine capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition are hereby banned. Additionally, shotguns that feature revolving chambers are also banned. The ordinance passed unanimously and with little debate. Of the 70 spectators, about 14 spoke in defense of Second Amendment rights. According to an official spokesman, the village trustees received assistance from national gun control organizations to draft the new ordinance.

The new ordinance states:

“... the possession, manufacture and sale of assault weapons in the Village of Deerfield is not reasonable necessary to protect an individual's right of self-defense or the preservation of efficiency of a well-regulated militia…”

Spurred by the February 14 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, Deerfield Mayor Harriet Rosenthal asked the board to draft an assault rifle ban just days after the killings. In a press release, Rosenthal stated, “We hope that our local decision helps spur state and national leaders to take steps to make our communities safer.”

While the ordinance goes into effect on June 13, other rifles, shotguns, pistols, and ammunition will not be impacted. It was based on a similar ordinance that was passed in nearby Highland Park in 2013. That ordinance survived in court after being contested on the basis of the U.S. Constitution. The Highland Park ban was challenged by a city resident and the Illinois State Rifle Association. After the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that the ordinance was constitutional, the U.S. Supreme Court let the decision stand when it declined to take up an appeal.

Deerfield had earlier opted not to enact a total ban on assault weapons during a 10-day grace period that state legislators gave to some municipalities in 2013 before the state’s new Firearm Concealed Carry Act eliminated their ability to do so. The village’s trustees therefore enacted an ordinance that defined assault weapons and required safe storage and transportation of them within the village. The original resolution said that since Deerfield enacted its regulations, “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.”

Because that ordinance was put into place during the time frame of the grace period, Deerfield reserved the right to amend in the future. Similar laws have been found constitutional in California, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.

According to the Deerfield ordinance, the definition of an assault weapon includes: shotguns with a revolving cylinder, semi-automatic rifles that have a fixed magazine with a capacity to accept more than 10 rounds of ammunition; as well as semi-automatic pistols and rifles that can accept large-capacity magazines and possess one of a list of other features. Models specified in the ordinance include: Saiga, Dragunov, AK-47,  AR-15, Bushmaster, Galil, FAL, and Uzi. 

The rationale for the ordinance recount recent shooting incidents that have galvanized gun control advocates: the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School; First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas; the Las Vegas music festival shooting; and the Pulse Nightclub mass shooting in Orlando, Florida. 

The gun rights group, Guns Save Life, is filing a lawsuit, and they’re getting support from the National Rifle Association. “Every law-abiding villager of Deerfield has the right to protect themselves, their homes, and their loved ones with the firearm that best suits their needs,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of NRA-ILA, in a statement. “The National Rifle Association is pleased to assist Guns Save Life in defense of this freedom.” In a statement, John Boch of Guns Save Life said: “We are going to fight this ordinance, which clearly violates our member’s constitutional rights, and with the help of the NRA I believe we can secure a victory for law-abiding gun owners in and around Deerfield.”

As a reflection of the continuing debate over mass shootings and certain firearms, the definition of what constitutes an “assault rifle,” according to the online version of the Merriam-Webster dictionary, changed recently. Last updated on March 31, 2018, the entry for “assault rifle” reads as follows:

“noun: any of various intermediate-range, magazine-fed military rifles (such as the AK-47) that can be set for automatic or semiautomatic fire; also : a rifle that resembles a military assault rifle but is designed to allow only semiautomatic fire.”
 

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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