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Pritzker again denies appearance of conflict in state case challenging gun ban

The governor continues to respond to perceived conflicts of interest around his $2 million in donations to Illinois Supreme Court justice candidates who now sit on the bench.

Published: March 15, 2023 4:40pm

Updated: March 15, 2023 10:59pm

(The Center Square) -

With state and federal cases challenging Illinois’ gun ban pending, Gov. J.B. Pritzker remains confident the law he signed will withstand constitutional scrutiny, though he says he’s not an expert.

The governor also continues to respond to perceived conflicts of interest around his $2 million in donations to Illinois Supreme Court justice candidates who now sit on the bench. The high court accepted to hear the gun ban challenge from Macon County where the governor is a lead defendant. He signed the law Jan. 10.

Pritzker said allegations there’s a conflict are false.

“The truth of the matter is my name is on these suits because I am an official representative of the state of Illinois,” Pritzker said.

Pritzker said the gun ban challenge, or the challenge to the Pretrial Fairness Act he also signed, don’t have anything to do specifically with him, he just so happens to be the governor. As to what he wanted from donating that much, he said he wants good people to get elected.

“And, I must say that I think people who run for judge do it for the right reasons and I think that people who give to candidates for judge do it for the right reasons,” Pritzker said.

The no-cash bail challenge is under advisement. The Illinois Supreme Court hears the gun ban challenge in May.

The Macon County gun ban challenge in state court focuses on the equal protection argument as law enforcement and security employees don’t have to comply with the ban while regular citizens must or face felony charges.

The four federal cases consolidated in the Southern District of Illinois challenging the state’s gun ban focus on the arguments that the ban violates the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment.

Pritzker had previously said Illinois’ law is constitutional because eight other states have similar bans, but Wednesday he said he’s not a constitutional law expert.

“So I wouldn't deign to offer a more expert opinion than I think the ones that you’ve heard,” Pritzker said.

Regardless, Pritzker said he’s confident the ban is constitutional.

“I think it follows the requirements of the cases that have been decided previously,” Pritzker said. “So it seems like that should be the future of this that it’s found constitutional.”

Gun rights advocates say recent U.S. Supreme Court precedent in the New York State Rifle & Pistol Assn., Inc. v. Bruen case issued last summer changes the test for gun laws from a balanced-interests approach to reflecting the text and tradition of the Second Amendment.

Wednesday, the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association filed a brief in support of the plaintiffs suing the state in the four consolidated federal cases under Barnett et al v. Raoul et al.

“Within the framework recognized by Bruen, these regulatory efforts were either too little or too late to constitute a ‘historical tradition’ of firearms regulation that could overcome the presumption that such regulations are prohibited by the Second Amendment,” the sheriffs’ filing says.

The sheriffs note a problem they have with enforcing what they say is an unconstitutional law.

“It is the open and obvious disregard of the Second Amendment’s reach that puts law enforcement officials in an untenable position and justifies immediate relief though a preliminary injunction against enforcement of [House BIll 5471],” the filing says.

Last week, an attorney with Everytown for Gun Safety filed a brief in support of the state’s ban. They argue the plaintiffs have not met their burden to establish the Second Amendment’s plain text covers their conduct.

“[B]ecause they have failed to establish that assault weapons and large-capacity magazines are among the ‘arms’ that the Second Amendment protects,” the Everytown brief says. “Bruen further confirmed that the inquiry should focus on common use for the lawful purpose of self-defense.”

The state is expected to file their reply to the plaintiffs’ charge that the law violates the Second Amendment Thursday. Southern District of Illinois Federal District Judge Stephen McGlynn will hear oral arguments on April 12.

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