Chicago, Cook County, as well as certain other Illinois municipalities, have banned AR15’s. But a common question we often hear is, “Is the AR15 pistol legal in Chicago?” One would think that if the AR15 rifle is banned then the pistol variant would also be banned, however, Illinois law contains “preemption” for handguns. So then the question really would be, is the AR15 pistol covered by Illinois preemption?
NOTE: The passage of the recent Illinois Assault Weapon Ban has mooted much of this article. However this article is being left intact for posterity, as it is very likely the Illinois Assault Weapon ban will be ruled unconstitutional. And, then the arguments in this article will once again become valid. At this time one can not purchase nor manufacturer an ar15 pistol anywhere in Illinois, except with very limited exemptions.
First, let’s discuss preemption since this entire article hinges on that language. As of the passage of the Illinois Concealed Carry Act, state law says…
(430 ILCS 66/90)
Sec. 90. Preemption. The regulation, licensing, possession, registration, and transportation of handguns and ammunition for handguns by licensees are exclusive powers and functions of the State. Any ordinance or regulation, or portion thereof, enacted on or before the effective date of this Act that purports to impose regulations or restrictions on licensees or handguns and ammunition for handguns in a manner inconsistent with this Act shall be invalid in its application to licensees under this Act on the effective date of this Act. This Section is a denial and limitation of home rule powers and functions under subsection (h) of Section 6 of Article VII of the Illinois Constitution.
(Source: P.A. 98-63, eff. 7-9-13.)
Layman’s Interpretation: Any ordinance or regulation which applies to handguns for law-abiding gun owners is null and void. Any ordinance that was on the books at the passage of the Illinois Concealed Carry Licensing Act became null and void unless amended within a specified period of time, That time frame has lapsed years ago. Municipalities may regulate long guns, but not handguns.
The Illinois Firearm Owner Identification Card Act also contains certain similar preemption language which was added to the FOID act at the passage of the Concealed Carry Act in 2013. Though this language is similar, it is different and says…
(b) Notwithstanding subsection (a) of this Section, the regulation, licensing, possession, and registration of handguns and ammunition for a handgun, and the transportation of any firearm and ammunition by a holder of a valid Firearm Owner’s Identification Card issued by the Department of State Police under this Act are exclusive powers and functions of this State. Any ordinance or regulation, or portion of that ordinance or regulation, enacted on or before the effective date of this amendatory Act of the 98th General Assembly that purports to impose regulations or restrictions on a holder of a valid Firearm Owner’s Identification Card issued by the Department of State Police under this Act in a manner that is inconsistent with this Act, on the effective date of this amendatory Act of the 98th General Assembly, shall be invalid in its application to a holder of a valid Firearm Owner’s Identification Card issued by the Department of State Police under this Act.
Layman’s Interpretation: The same preemption afforded to concealed carry licensees also applies to those lawful gun owners of Illinois who have a FOID card.
Since only handguns are preempted, next we have to cover the Illinois definition of “Handgun” which was also defined as part of the Illinois Concealed Carry Licensing Act and says…
(430 ILCS 66/5)
Sec. 5. Definitions. As used in this Act:
“Handgun” means any device which is designed to expel a projectile or projectiles by the action of an explosion, expansion of gas, or escape of gas that is designed to be held and fired by the use of a single hand.
Layman’s Interpretation: Handguns are designed to be shot with one hand. Some AR15 pistols with devices such as “Sig Tac Stabilizing Brace” are indeed designed to allow shooters to use one hand. The law does not say, “MUST be shot by one hand”, only “designed to be shot by one hand”. Please note, the law says nothing about caliber.
Product data literature for the Sig Sauer SB15 Stabilizing Brace states…
A shooter’s aid that is designed to improve the single-handed shooting performance of buffer tube equipped pistols
Let us also define what a handgun is NOT, also defined as part of the Illinois Concealed Carry Licensing Act, and says…
“Handgun” does not include:
(1) a stun gun or taser;
(2) a machine gun as defined in item (i) of paragraph
(7) of subsection (a) of Section 24-1 of the Criminal Code of 2012;
(3) a short-barreled rifle or shotgun as defined in
item (ii) of paragraph (7) of subsection (a) of Section 24-1 of the Criminal Code of 2012; or
(4) any pneumatic gun, spring gun, paint ball gun, or
B-B gun which expels a single globular projectile not exceeding .18 inch in diameter, or which has a maximum muzzle velocity of less than 700 feet per second, or which expels breakable paint balls containing washable marking colors.
Layman’s Interpretation: Nothing contained within the Firearm Concealed Carry Licensing Act would eliminate an AR15 Pistol from the definition of “Handgun”. We are referred to the Illinois Criminal Code for definitions of machine guns and the definition of short barrel rifles. A link to the Criminal Code is provided below for your review, however, neither definition would describe the AR15 pistol.
Lastly, there is no dispute that the City of Chicago ordinance has banned AR15’s, as part of their so-called, “Assault Weapon Ban”. There is also no dispute that they did this within the allotted time frame stated within the Concealed Carry Licensing Act. But one thing that is often overlooked is contained within City of Chicago ordinance 8-20-250 which states…
Nothing in this section shall be construed to regulate any firearm or ammunition to the extent that such regulation is preempted.
Layman’s Interpretation: Clearly the city of Chicago acknowledges the preemption language contained within Illinois law. Therefore any bans on handguns would only apply to those who do not have FOID, and simply be redundant since it is already illegal to own or possess firearms without a FOID, thus making it more “illegal-er”.
All of the above is a layman’s interpretation of the “letter of the law” and is not to be considered legal advice. Cautious individuals will be quick to point out that there is no “case law” on this subject. Meaning that no legal gun owner has yet been arrested and prosecuted for violation of this ordinance. When a judge or jury make a decision, we then have case law. But it is important to note that we may never have case law on an issue when the letter is so black and white. Any person within Chicago who chooses to possess an AR15 pistol should do so cautiously, knowing they may have to defend their rights in court.
Disclaimer: The above information is for educational purposes only. The claims made are not to be considered legal advice and have not been reviewed by a lawyer. You can be arrested for anything, and the letter of the law becomes your defense in court.