Coalition Argues That States have Authority to Protect Sensitive Places from Gun Violence
Chicago — Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Attorney General for the District of Columbia Brian Schwalb led a coalition of 18 attorneys general asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit to reverse a lower court decision that enjoined New York’s prohibition on carrying firearms in places of worship and religious observation. In an amicus brief, Raoul and the coalition argue that the prohibition is consistent with U.S. Supreme Court precedent and with a long tradition of similar regulations designed to meet the states’ responsibility to protect their residents from the harmful effects of gun violence.
The coalition argues that states have an interest in limiting the possession and use of firearms in locations where people exercise other constitutionally protected rights, where vulnerable populations like children and older adults gather, and where large groups of people meet in confined spaces. Locations like churches, synagogues, and mosques are the heart of many people’s religious exercise. The brief notes that they are also increasingly targets of gun violence, which may dissuade people from attending religious services and otherwise exercising their First Amendment rights.
“States have the authority to craft policies that best protect their residents from gun violence – including those restricting firearms in places where large groups of people gather in confined spaces to exercise their constitutional right to observe their religious beliefs,” Raoul said. “States’ long-standing authority to tailor firearm regulations to local nuances is essential for policymakers to be able to address gun violence and keep their communities safe.”
The brief explains that though the U.S. Supreme Court recently altered the judicial analysis for Second Amendment claims in N.Y. State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, the court’s decision did not upend the states’ long-standing authority to regulate the carrying of firearms in certain places. The court reaffirmed in Bruen that the Second Amendment has never given Americans an unrestricted right to carry loaded firearms in all public places. Instead, states may enact a variety of regulations to combat the problem of gun violence, including solutions tailored to local needs.
The brief is the most recent step in Attorney General Raoul’s work to address gun violence throughout Illinois and across the nation. The Attorney General’s office created a state-of-the-art crime-gun tracing database for Illinois law enforcement called Crime Gun Connect. Raoul’s office also collaborates with local law enforcement to combat gun trafficking and has used the office’s jurisdiction to prosecute multi-county gun trafficking offenses. Additionally, the Attorney General’s office works with law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to increase awareness of Illinois’ red flag law and to address gaps in Illinois’ firearms licensing system. The office also continues to prosecute individuals who lie on FOID card applications.
The Attorney General’s office partners with the U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) to try to avert violence by hosting trainings for law enforcement officers, educators, religious leaders and other community members that are designed to prevent targeted acts of violence.
Attorney General Raoul has persistently advocated at the federal and state levels to strengthen regulation of 3D-printed guns and ghost guns. Illinois law now prohibits ghost guns, but the office continues to fight in federal court to help defend a recent rule closing the federal loophole. Meanwhile, the Attorney General’s office also defends cases pending in courts across the state challenging Illinois regulations of firearms. Nationally, Attorney General Raoul successfully filed and resolved a lawsuit to get the federal firearm license of an unscrupulous arms manufacturer revoked.
In addition to supporting law enforcement, the Attorney General’s office supports victim services providers around Illinois that offer trauma-informed services for crime victims and their families. Raoul’s Violence Prevention and Crime Victim Services Division administers a host of programs and services to assist survivors of violent crime. More information is available on the Attorney General’s website.
Joining Raoul and Schwalb in filing the brief, are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.