The Illinois Assault Weapon Ban

The Illinois Assault Weapon Ban

In July 2022, at an annual Independence Day parade in the Chicago suburban town of Highland Park, Illinois, seven lives were senselessly lost and many more injured when a lone shooter opened fire on the parade onlookers with an AR-15 assault rifle.

This mass shooting shook the community and catapulted Illinois lawmakers to create what is now known as the Protect Illinois Communities Act (PICA). Under PICA, Illinois lawmakers aim to regulate all the possession, sale, distribution, and manufacturing of assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines within Illinois.

What is the Assault Weapon Ban in Illinois?

On January 10, 2023 Illinois Governor JB Pritzker signed the Protect Illinois Communities Act (PICA) which went into immediate effect throughout the state.

While many Illinois residents oppose this law, many law enforcement officials are hopeful that the regulation of assault-style weapons will help to combat the flow of illegal guns that circulate on the streets. Lawmakers believe that PICA is critical in the state’s effort to reduce gun violence and the growing number of mass shootings, like the one in Highland Park.

Part of the ongoing opposition to PICA is the language itself. Some argue that the language is over encompassing, others say it doesn’t do enough to protect the public, and others say the law is vague and confusing.

Under PICA, assault-style weapons and large capacity ammunition feeding devices (and many other weapons) can no longer be purchased, sold, manufactured, or possessed in Illinois.

The assault-style weapons restricted by PICA include various “semi-automatic” guns. Semi-Automatic refers to weapons that reload automatically, but the trigger must be pulled to fire each bullet.

Examples of weapons and ammunition made illegal by PICA include AR and AK rifles, .50 caliber rifles, .50 caliber cartridge devices, and large capacity ammunition feeding devices.

Examples of large capacity ammunition feeding devices include magazines, belts, drums, feed strips, switches, and similar device with a capacity that can be readily restored to take more than 10 rounds of ammunition for long guns and more than 15 rounds of ammunition for handguns. However, a 15-round magazine without any extension kit is legal.

I Already Own an Assault-Style Weapon. What do I do?

If you have been in possession of an assault-style weapon, ammunition, or a large capacity feeding device that is now illegal under PICA, and you’ve maintained ownership since before January 10, 2022, you are permitted to keep it, if you properly registered these items with the Illinois State Police before January 1, 2024.

Illinois Supreme Court Ruling on Weapon Ban

When PICA became law roughly six months after the Highland Park mass shooting in 2022, many who opposed the law immediately filed lawsuits in state and federal court. Subsequently, a trial court judge in Macon County Illinois ruled PICA to be unconstitutional with the opinion that this law violates the equal protection rights of Illinois residents. Then in 2023, the Illinois Supreme Court reversed the Macon County trial judge's ruling and found PICA to not violate the federal Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection laws or breach the state Constitution’s prohibition on special legislation.

While challenges to PICA remain in the US Federal Court, Illinois can immediately enforce PICA while waiting for the US Federal Court to make a ruling.

Registration of Assault-Style Weapons Required

In September 2023, the Illinois State Police (ISP) published temporary rules explaining how Illinois residents who own these restricted weapons, ammunition, and devices are required to submit an online endorsement affidavit with their Firearm Owner’s Identification Card accounts stating that the restricted items were possessed prior to the enactment of PICA on January 10, 2023. On October 1, 2023, Illinois officially opened the online registration allowing resident gun owners to submit their endorsement affidavits. Illinois residents have until midnight on December 31, 2023 to sign under oath and submit their endorsement affidavit to ISP or risk prosecution.

Failing to submit the endorsement affidavit is a violation of the Illinois FOID Act. Under the law, a first-time offense is a Class A misdemeanor which can be punishable by up to $2500 in fines and/or 365 days in jail. A subsequent offense is a Class 3 felony which is punishable by up to $25,000 and/or 5 years in prison (10 years if extended term eligible). Anyone who violates this law is subject to arrest and criminal charges.

Are There Exceptions to the Assault-Style Weapon Regulations?

Within PICA, there is language that allows narrow exceptions to the regulation of assault-style weapons, ammunition, and large capacity feeder devices to qualified law enforcement officers and federal and state military personnel.

The law then defines a qualified law enforcement officer as any employee of a governmental agency who is working within his/her official duties and not prohibited by federal law from possessing a firearm, is authorized by the agency to carry a firearm, not subject to any disciplinary action by the agency, meets agency standards and qualifies in the use of a firearm, and is not under any influence of alcohol.

Additionally, members of the Armed Services, US Reserve Forces, and the US and National guard are also exempt while performing their official duties. However, if these individuals own or possess restricted guns or other related items under PICA, and they are not performing their official duties, they are subject to the endorsement affidavit provisions.

Transporting Assault-Style Weapons for non-Illinois Residents

A non-Illinois resident can legally transport a restricted weapon through Illinois from a lawfully possessed place to another lawfully place during a 24-hour period. The weapon must be unloaded and inaccessible to the passenger compartment of the vehicle during transport. If the vehicle doesn’t have a separate compartment, the weapon and ammunition must remain in a locked container that is not the center console or glove box.

How Can I Transport my Assault-Style Weapon?

Under PICA, it is possible to transfer assault-style weapons and other restricted items. However, under PICA, who you can legally transfer these restricted weapons to is very limited. These items can ONLY be transferred to:

  1. individuals exempt from the assault weapons regulation,
  2. an heir upon the death of the owner,
  3. an individual residing in another state, or
  4. a licensed federal firearm dealer.

Additionally, an heir who resides in Illinois who inherits an assault-style weapon MUST notify the Illinois State Police within 10 days of the transfer using the Person-to-Person transfer portal. The link for this portal is:

Can I Move to Illinois with Assault-Style Weapons?

When moving to Illinois, it is very important to become knowledgeable of the Illinois laws. This is especially true for laws pertaining to Illinois gun laws. Unlike many of our surrounding states, Illinois has several laws that probit individuals from purchasing, selling, possessing, carrying, and manufacturing weapons and ammunition. If you are a gun owner, it is important that you become familiar with these laws to avoid any possible wrongdoing.

For example, upon moving to Illinois, Illinois law requires all gun owners to apply for a Firearm Owner’s Identification Card (FOID) within 60 days. Additionally, you must also submit the endorsement affidavit online within 60 days if you own any of the assault-style weapons, of large capacity feeder devices discussed above.
The link to the Firearms Services Bureau Applicant Portal is:

Speak to our Experienced Firearms Defense Legal Team

The experienced attorneys at Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC have been representing clients charged with weapons and gun violations for over 30 years. You can contact our offices at (312) 644-0444 for a free consultation.

Written by Mitchell S. Sexner and Cleveland A. Tyson Jr. Last Updated : June 17, 2024