Yesterday, Illinois Solicitor General Jane Elinor Notz filed a brief with the Supreme Court, defending the Illinois assault weapons ban. Much of the brief is about law and procedure, which I’m not knowledgeable enough to address. But think I can shed some light on one tiny piece of Notz’s brief:
The instruments regulated by the Act are best suited for offensive combat: their defining characteristics are unnecessary (and often counterproductive) for self defense, with the result that handguns and shotguns are preferred for self-defense scenarios.
This is brazen misdirection. Maybe even a pack of lies.
The Act in question is the Protect Illinois Communities Act (PICA) of 2023, and many of the characteristics of rifles that it outlaws — pistol grips, forward grips, adjustable stocks, barrel shrouds — are things that would make a rifle ergonomically easier to use, which obviously makes it more effective for self-defense.
(The Act also calls out and names a whole bunch of guns which are banned as de jure assault weapons, regardless of what features they have. It’s hard to argue with the justification for this, since Notz offers no justification for this.)
Furthermore, Notz’s argument that PICA outlaws certain rifles because handguns and shotguns are better for self-defense would make sense if PICA was only about rifles. But PICA also restricts handguns and shotguns. And again, many of the features listed are the kinds of improvements that would help with self defense:
On pistols, the Act forbids forward grips, barrel shrouds, and any feature which could be used to fire the gun from the shoulder position, all of which make the gun easier to handle for more accurate fire, which is obviously helpful for a self-defense situation where there may be innocent people around. The act also bans flash suppressors, which reduce the risk of being dazzled by your own gunfire, and threaded barrels, which could be used to attach a recoil compensator, which would make the gun more controllable and therefore safer.
(Threaded barrels could be used to attach a suppressor (a.k.a. “silencer”), but of course suppressors are already illegal in Illinois. And come to think of it, a suppressor is an excellent feature for self defense, because it would protect the hearing of both the shooter and their family members during a gunfight.)
As for shotguns, the Act bans forward grips, thumbhole stocks, and folding stocks, all features that would make a shotgun more ergonomic and therefore easier and safer to use for self-defense.
Furthermore, for all three types of weapons — pistols, shotguns, and rifles — PICA bans large magazines, defined as more than 15 for a pistol, 10 for a rifle, or five for a shotgun. Obviously, all other things being equal, the more shots you can fire in a gunfight, the better your chances of willing. Notz cites research indicating that most self defense shootings use only a few bullets, but that doesn’t mean that every instance of self-defense uses only a few bullets, and certainly running out of ammunition in a self-defense scenario is one of the worst possible things that could happen.
Gun owners have long complained about gun control laws based on a poor understanding of guns, and this is yet another example. It’s hard to come up with a logical justification for banning assault weapons when your definition of “assault weapon” is so stupid.