Deerfield, Illinois village board bans assault weapons, high-capacity rifles and not everyone is happy about it

Deerfield, Illinois village board bans assault weapons, high-capacity rifles and not everyone is happy about it
Getty Images

Assault weapon owners who are living in the north suburban village of Deerfield have time until June 13 to remove their firearms from within the limits of the village or face daily fines. The Village Board of Trustees unanimously approved the ban on certain types of assault rifles and high-capacity magazines. They basically amended an ordinance made in 2013 that regulated the storage of those particular items. The ban on the weapons was approved on April 2.

The new ordinance now bans the possession, sale, and manufacturing of certain types of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines within the village limits. One of the changes in the law was that it was originally supposed to exempt retired police officers from the ban, said Kent Street, the village manager.

According to Matthew Rose, the village attorney, violations of the new ordinance is said to carry a fine that could be anywhere between $250 and $1,000 a day. He also said that the fine will be imposed each day till the person complies.

Street has said that the new law has been modeled after the one that was approved by Highland Park in 2013. The Highland Park ban managed to survive a legal challenge that was thrown at it by one of the city's residents along with the Illinois State Rifle Association. 

The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals said that the legislation was constitutional and the US Supreme Court let that very decision stay when it decided not to follow through with the appeal.

Deerfield, unlike Highland Park, decided not to enact a complete ban on assault weapons during a short 10-day window that Illinois lawmakers gave to the home-rule municipalities in 2013. This happened before the state introduced the new Firearm Concealed Carry Act which eliminated their ability to do so.

The village trustees enacted the ordinance which defined assault weapons and required any person to safely store and transport the weapons inside village limits. Street had said at an earlier time that the measure, which was enacted during the permitted time frame, kept the right make amendments to the ordinance in the future.

Rose said last month: "This is not only held constitutional by the Seventh Circuit but similar laws have been ruled constitutional in California, the District of Columbia and Maryland."

The original resolution had said that ever since Deerfield has 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."

The definition of an assault weapon in the ordinance is, amongst 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".

According to the ordinance, the AR-15, AK-47, and Uzi are among the dozens of specific models that were cited.

The explanation behind this new step in the law was cited as the four recent mass shootings that claimed 150 lives in total: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School - 17 dead; First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs - 26 people; the Las Vegas music festival - 58 dead and the Pulse Nightclub mass shooting - 49 dead.

The trustees did not have any debates on the matter on April 2 and more than 70 people from the community attended the meeting. 20 people spoke at the meeting out of which, 14 were against the ban and six were for it. Out of the 14 against the ban, eight of them lived outside Deerfield.

Larry Nordal of Deerfield, one of the opponents of the ban, cited the rights of the people under the 2nd Amendment and spoke about fears that even more restrictive laws would be enacted in the future.

Nordal said: "The ordinance to store firearms was only passed for one reason. That was to have an amendatory vehicle that could be used in the future for just this purpose so you could banish assorted firearms in the future. First, it’s going to be assault rifles. (There will be) new bans in the future. It’s just a matter of time."

Ariella Kharasch, one of the seniors at Deerfield High School, was all for the new law and said that she wanted to see more action not just locally but nationally as well. She said: "This is our fight. This is our generation’s fight. We’re going to keep fighting and this is part of it. Change happens gradually step by step. The fight does not end at the borders of our village." 

Joel Siegel of Lincolnwood has said that governments in other countries have already banned assault rifles but then they proceeded to use the weapons against its defenseless citizens. He urged strongly for civil disobedience as a way of staying safe.

Siegel said: "There’s an ancient and honored American tradition called disobeying an unjust law. I have urged (people) to listen to their conscience and if so moved do not obey this law."

The trustees did not discuss their reasons for supporting the ordinance at the meeting but Trustee Barbara Struthers said that she knew about people who were opposed to the new ordinance but chose not to come out and speak about it for fear of being ridiculed in the community. She has made it clear that she wants none of that behavior.

She said: "I’m going to vote for the ordinance but people who disagree with the gun owners should not be beating them over the head just because they disagree."

Harriet Rosenthal, the Mayor of Deerfield, said that she decided to take on the ban after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, on February 14. When the ban was discussed first she said, "Enough is enough. Those students are so articulate just like our students. There is no place here for assault weapons." 

Share this article:  Deerfield, Illinois, has decided to ban assault weapons and high-capacity rifles