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Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. 2020 ‘Preemption of Local Laws in Illinois.’ Other Laws & Policies. San Francisco, CA: Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. 24 November

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Local Authority to Regulate Firearms in Illinois

The Illinois Legislature grants broad authority to municipalities to regulate firearms and ammunition. State law provides that "[t]he provisions of any ordinance enacted by any municipality which requires registration or imposes greater restrictions or limitations on the acquisition, possession and transfer of firearms than are imposed by this Act [which comprehensively regulates firearms], are not invalidated or affected by this Act." "Municipality" is defined to include cities, villages or incorporated towns, but not townships, counties or park districts.

The Illinois Constitution grants home rule units broad authority to "exercise any power and perform any function pertaining to its government and affairs, including, but not limited to, the power to regulate for the protection of the public health, safety, morals and welfare…." The only limits on a home rule unit's autonomy are those imposed by the Constitution, or by the legislature exercising its authority to preempt home rule where it specifically declares its exercise to be exclusive. A "home rule" unit is defined as a "County which has a chief executive officer elected by the electors of the county and any municipality which has a population of more than 25,000…. Other municipalities may elect by referendum to become home rule units."

In June 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment applies to state and local governments. In so ruling, the Court reversed a Seventh Circuit decision that affirmed the dismissal of Second Amendment challenges to handgun bans in Chicago and Oak Park, Illinois. This right, as first delineated in District of Columbia v. Heller, guarantees an individual right to possess a firearm in the home for self-defense. The McDonald decision effectively rendered unconstitutional handgun possession bans in Chicago, Oak Park and other Illinois communities to the extent their bans restricted gun possession in the home for self-defense (Chicago amended its laws accordingly in July 2010). Local laws that do not burden the right are constitutional, and the decisions below discussing local regulatory authority generally are not impaired by the McDonald ruling.

In Kalodimos v. Village of Morton Grove, the Supreme Court of Illinois upheld a municipal ordinance banning handguns as a permissible exercise of the city's home rule and police powers. The court emphasized that when the state enacts statutes that relate to the ownership, possession or sale of firearms, it does not preempt the field of firearms regulation, but permits local laws further regulating or restricting firearms.

In Illinois Sporting Goods Ass'n v. County of Cook, 845 F.Supp. 582 (N.D. Ill. 1994), a federal court heard a challenge to the firearms dealers licensing provisions of Cook County's Firearms Dealer's License and Assault Weapons Ban Ordinance (No. 190061). In denying the challengers' attack on the provisions based on Art. VII, § 6(a) of the Illinois Constitution (which grants to home rule units like Cook County the ability to exercise any and all powers to protect the health, safety, morals and welfare of the members of its community), the court noted that "reducing firearm violence among children" is an important governmental interest that the ordinance was designed to serve, and that the challengers failed to show that the licensing procedure constituted an "unreasonable method" to reduce firearm violence.

Cook County is currently the only home rule county in Illinois. A county which is not a home rule unit can exercise only the powers expressly delegated by the legislature or those that arise by necessary implication from expressly delegated powers. Moreover, municipal ordinances can impose regulations beyond those enacted by the county. The Illinois Constitution states that "[i]f a home rule county ordinance conflicts with an ordinance of a municipality, the municipal ordinance shall prevail within its jurisdiction." The Illinois Counties Code expressly delegates to counties only regulation of the discharge of firearms in unincorporated residential areas.

Illinois law provides that every municipality must submit to the Illinois Department of State Police (DSP) a copy of every ordinance adopted that regulates the acquisition, possession, sale, or transfer of firearms within 30 days after adoption…

[Editor's note: The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence regularly updates its webpages with new data as US gun regulation evolves state by state. For the most up-to-date information on US gun laws, please refer to the Giffords URL below]

ID: Q7709

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