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Lawsuit challenges Highland Park’s assault weapons ban

'Is this something you need do because crime wave HighlPark with assault weapons?'  Mike Weisman Illinois State Rifle Associatiasked

"Is this something you need to do because of a crime wave in Highland Park with assault weapons?" Mike Weisman, of the Illinois State Rifle Association, asked the Highland Park City Council on June 4. | File

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Updated: January 27, 2014 12:33PM

A Highland Park pediatrician and the Illinois State Rifle Association are challenging the constitutionality of the city of Highland Park’s assault weapons ban which, they say, prohibits firearms commonly used for self-defense within the home.

Arie S. Friedman and the rifle association are asking for an injunction to prevent enforcement of a law that assault weapons be turned in or rendered inoperable.

The lawsuit, originally filed in Lake County Circuit Court Dec. 12, was transferred to the U.S. District Court of Illinois Dec. 19 and is now before U.S. District Judge James Holderman.

“The evidence will establish that [Highland Park’s] ordinance bans possession of a large category of firearms and magazines that are owned and used by millions of law-abiding citizens in the United States for lawful purposes, including self-defense in the home,” the suit states.

The lawsuit also claims the Highland Park ordinance contradicts a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2008.

“While ownership of dangerous and unusual firearms is not protected by the Second Amendment, ownership of firearms that are in common use for lawful purposes is categorically protected,” the suit stated, citing the precedent.

According to the complaint, Friedman owns and keeps in Highland Park certain semi-automatic firearms and ammunition magazines that are now banned by city ordinance. They include a Smith & Wesson M & P 15 rifle, a Springfield M1A rifle and multiple magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

Friedman keeps the weapons for lawful purposes, is trained in their use and stores them safely, the suit states.

The suit alleges the Highland Park City Council’s action June 24 to ban assault weapons was more a symbolic political gesture than a response to any real or perceived threat to Highland Park residents. The lawsuit notes the city has a low incidence of crime of any kind, particularly violent crime. Only 17 incidents of violent crime were recorded in 2010, and none of them was a homicide, according to court documents.

“In their request for an injunction, the plaintiffs claim the city should not be entitled to enforce this ordinance because there is no history of gun violence in the city of Highland Park,” Highland Park city attorney Steven Elrod said. “We don’t read the law that way. We believe that the city has the right to be proactive in its governance.

“When the city adopted the ordinance in June, it made a finding that the possibility of gun violence could exist in a small town suburban setting. It pointed to the tragedies in Newtown [Connecticut] and Aurora [Colorado].”

The Highland Park City Council acted to ban assault weapons during a 10-day window provided by the state legislature in the Firearms Concealed Carry Act, and was one of only a few municipalities to do so.

The Highland Park ordinance is nearly identical to a Cook County ban on assault weapons that also has been the subject of a legal challenge. The Illinois Supreme Court has remanded that case back to the Circuit Court of Cook County to determine if the banned firearms fall outside the protections of the Second Amendment.

Friedman, who grew up in Highland Park and served in the U.S. Navy, has twice run for public office. He ran for the 10th Congressional District seat in the 2010 Republican primary and for the 29th District state Senate seat in 2012.

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