The Second Amendment Foundation and Firearms Policy Coalition have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the prohibition on so-called “assault weapons” in Cook County, Illinois, the latest in a growing list of legal actions in which SAF and FPC have collaborated.
The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The case is known as Viramontes v. Cook County.
The two gun rights organizations have filed the lawsuit on behalf of three private citizens, Cutberto Viramontes, Rubi Joyal and Christopher Khaya, all Cook County residents. Named as defendants are Cook County, Toni Preckwinkle, president of the Cook County Board and the county’s chief executive officer; Kimberly M. Foxx, state’s attorney and Sheriff Thomas Dart, in their official capacities. Plaintiffs are represented by attorneys Christian D. Ambler of Stone & Johnson. CHTD in Chicago and David H. Thompson, Peter A. Patterson and William V. Bergstrom with Cooper & Kirk, PLLC, Washington, D.C.
“The county has enacted and enforced a prohibition on semiautomatic modern sporting rifles, which they erroneously describe as ‘assault weapons,’ even though such firearms are in common use all over the country,” said SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb. “As a result, the county is denying our individual plaintiffs their rights under the Second Amendment to keep and bear arms.”
The 19-page complaint alleges “Defendants have enacted and enforced a flat prohibition on the gift, transfer, acquisition, carry, or possession, of many common semiautomatic rifles—tendentiously labeled “assault weapons”—by ordinary citizens, making it criminal for law-abiding citizens to exercise their fundamental right to keep and bear such arms.”
They further allege that “enactment and enforcement of Cook County’s prohibition on common semiautomatic rifles tendentiously and inaccurately labelled assault weapons denies individuals who reside in the County, including individual Plaintiffs and members of SAF and FPC, their fundamental, individual right to keep and bear common arms.”
According to the SAF complaint, the “Blair Holt Assault Weapons Ban” was adopted in November 2006 and revised in July 2013. It criminalized possession of so-called “assault weapons,” forcing owners of such firearms to remove them from the county, make them permanently inoperable or surrender them to the sheriff. The ban also deems such firearms “contraband” and requires the sheriff to seize them.
“This ordinance bans any semi-auto rifle that can accept a magazine of more than ten rounds, if it has any one of various cosmetic features that have nothing to do with how the firearm functions,” Gottlieb explained. “It lists a number of firearms banned under the law and the list looks like someone just scanned a bunch of scary-looking guns and added them to the roster.”
He said guns identified on the list are “commonly owned and used all over the country for all kinds of legitimate purposes including hunting, target shooting, competition, predator control and recreation.”