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updated: 12/20/2013 4:21 PM

Highland Park sued over assault weapons ban

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  • Highland Park has banned assault weapons like these on display at a shop in New Castle, Pa.

    Highland Park has banned assault weapons like these on display at a shop in New Castle, Pa.
    Associated Press file photo

Associated Press

A gun rights group has filed its first lawsuit against one of the Illinois communities that rushed to pass an assault weapons ban before a state law allowed people to carry concealed weapons in public, and the group strongly hinted Friday that the lawsuit will not be its last.

"I am not at liberty to talk about (other possible lawsuits), but let's just say we're always working," said Richard Pearson, the executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, which joined the lawsuit filed by a pediatrician against Highland Park. "We are going after them wherever they are."

In the lawsuit, the rifle association and Dr. Arie Friedman, an owner of semi-automatic weapons, contend that Highland Park, where Friedman lives, did not have a legal right to ban the weapons that he says he keeps for the lawful purposes of target shooting and self-defense.

Further, the lawsuit suggests that by lumping in the kinds of semi-automatic weapons Friedman owns with fully automatic assault weapons, the ban infringes on the rights of people to possess one of the most commonly owned "sporting rifles" in the United States.

"Ownership of firearms that are commonly possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes ... is a fundamental right under the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution," according to the lawsuit. Friedman did not immediately return calls for comment on the lawsuit.

Highland Park, which had the case moved to federal court this week, saying the only issue is the constitutionality of its ban, argues that it is on solid legal ground. Steven Elrod, the community's attorney and a partner with Holland & Knight, the law firm handling the case, said that the U.S. Supreme Court, in striking down Washington, D.C.'s handgun ban in 2008 allowed for certain types of weapons to be banned.

He added, "what the city has crafted ... satisfies the requirements of the Second Amendment."

He also disputed the argument that Highland Park's definition of assault weapons is too broad, saying that the Illinois Supreme Court has ruled in favor of that definition in another lawsuit brought against Cook County, though it has not yet ruled on the Second Amendment question.

Highland Park was one of several communities around the state to debate over the summer whether or not to regulate or ban assault weapons when state lawmakers made it legal to carry concealed weapons in public. The state bill included a provision that gave local communities 10 days to come up with an ordinance or forfeit their right to do so.

While approximately 50 of the state's 1,300 municipalities took up the issue, the rifle association estimated that fewer than 20 -- all in the Chicago metropolitan area -- enacted regulations or bans.

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