The Next Heller Case? Wilson v. Cook County Goes to Trial

By CTD Mike published on in News

Gun advocates in states that still have assault weapons bans have been wondering when some brave soul will sue to overturn those laws. Under the landmark DC vs. Heller case, the Second Amendment was interpreted as protecting an individual right to keep and bear arms in common use, subject to reasonable restrictions. Now, solo practitioner Victor Quilici and a small but dedicated legal team have a good test case in Illinois. The Illinois Supreme Court just ruled earlier this month that Wilson v. Cook County will go to trial.

Illinois Supreme Court Justices

These men and women will likely decide the fate of Wilson v. Cook County.

The Case

Theoretically, the case is simple. There are three plaintiffs suing the state of Illinois. Matthew D. Wilson, Troy Edhlund, and Joseph Messineo are three guys you’ve probably never heard of. Take note of their names. They are the ones with the guts to take on the entrenched political machine that is the Illinois court system. Their case is simple in theory. They argue that the Cook County assault weapons ban violates the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America. The Cook County Commissioners originally enacted the ban in 1993 after a Finding of Public Health and Welfare Concern, and amended it in 2006 after the expiration of the federal assault weapons ban. Among other things, it bans 60 firearms by name, bans magazines holding over 10 rounds, and bans assault ammunition, whatever that is. It also imposes a characteristic-based test for whether a firearm is legal or not based on whether the gun has certain cosmetic features such as folding stocks and flash hiders. The three plaintiffs are all law-abiding gun owners with valid Illinois FOID cards and clean criminal records, suing for the future ability to own firearms that now violate the Cook county ordinance. They are not bad guys caught with illegal guns trying to use the Second Amendment to stay out of jail.

The Appeal

The lower courts threw out the Wilson case before it even got to trial.  They wrote that because there were other rulings in other states upholding similar bans, there was no way that the plaintiffs’ argument could win in Cook County either. They didn’t want the case to see a full hearing on the record. The Wilson legal team argued that these rulings really meant, “We can violate your rights as long as other places violate them the same way,” and they refused to give up. They argued all the way up the legal food chain to the Illinois Supreme Court. Once there, another legal case based on Heller helped them out. In 2010, that same Illinois Supreme Court had ruled that the Second Amendment rights as decided in Heller extended to all the states. The McDonald v. Chicago ruling overturned Chicago’s longstanding handgun ban. Arguments for the Wilson case stood on the shoulders of Heller and McDonald. On April 6, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that Wilson v. Cook County should go back to the beginning and be granted a full and fair trial in front of the original circuit court.

The Risk

Going forward with Wilson carries a great deal of risk. It’s like a championship boxing match with 12 rounds, and our side just finished real strong as the bell rang to end round three. The venue could not possibly be more hostile. The trial will occur in front of the same court that already threw out the case once before, saying it stood no chance to win. Expect a loss at the circuit court level, and another loss in the appeals courts, before the main event finishes in front of the Illinois Supreme Court one more time. Someone is going to get knocked clean out of the ring when the final ruling is made, and it could be us. A well-reasoned ruling that assault weapons bans are “reasonable restrictions” under Heller would create a powerful precedent. Anti-gun lawyers and courts would use that precedent to justify a wide variety of gun control measures, possibly for years to come. A Wilson loss at the Illinois Supreme Court level could even undermine the weight of the Heller and McDonald decisions.

The Reward

The Wilson plaintiffs and their hard-working attorneys believe that the potential rewards of a win outweigh the risks of a loss. A final ruling overturning the Illinois assault weapons ban as unconstitutional under the Second Amendment would have a cascading effect on other ban states. Lawyers in California, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and other states would attack those states’ gun control schemes using Wilson as their platform. Potentially, a domino effect could occur in the coming years as assault weapons bans around the country fall one by one to 2nd Amendment attacks piling up on top of each other.

As Second Amendment advocates, we should all be interested in the progress of Wilson v. Cook County as it goes to trial and then through the appeals system. Citizens living in states with restrictive bans on firearms based on ammo capacity and cosmetic features should be especially interested. What happens to Illinois after Wilson is likely to happen in their state next–either way.

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Comments (26)

  • fair

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    Another insane attempt by lawyers to buy/sale/give-away our gun rights. Gun owners need to stay OUT of court. The courts are NOT your friend. 4 out of 5 lawsuits are brought in court by gun owning plaintiffs. This is insane. Gun owners will do well to realized – Courts are NOT your friend. Get out and stay out of court. I’m tired of you greedy lawyers giving my gun rights away in gun hating, government courts.

    Reply

    • John1943

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      Although many lawyers are not our friends, it is the politicians who truly are our enemies. Whether gun owners sue or not, politicians will keep taking bites out of our rights. All that will happen if we follow your advice is that we will allow any and every stupid law to stand. There will be nothing left far faster than if we win some on the way.

      Reply

  • lamont schusse

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    I used to spend the summer on Chicago’s south side. Our young people are going crazy there. My 96yr. Mother’s house got her front storm door window blown out due to a drive by (huge turf war going on), along with a neighbors huge picture window. He’s 85. We had moved moms out of their weeks before it happened. She passed away on Dec. 11th 2012, and we never told her. Just happy she wasn’t still living there. I took it upon myself to stop the insanity on her block. That’s all I’ll say, but it got real quiet for most of my remaining stay. The really sad thing is that there are 2 Chicago police officers living on her street! One guy I have’t only seen 3 times in all my travels back to see moms. The other is a female officer on maturnity leave. She lived next door to one of the houses that was the main problem on that block! I did have my kevlar level iiia vest with me that i wore most times, even in the 90 degree heat. Truth be told, mayor Emanual should be handing out ar-15 long guns, pistols, @ the airport for law abiding citizens if the are going to the south side of Chicago. Of course this is an anemic attempt @ levity to address a serious problem. It’s really not funny. I’m glad I’m out of there and back in another state/city, that isn’t much better.

    Reply

    • Bill

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      I left Detroit nearly 4 years ago and have never looked back. I wish those folks well, but suspect nothing but a long hard road ahead of them.

      When I went from North Carolina to Minnesota this past summer, I detoured around Illinois although traveling through Chicago would have saved time and fuel. I spent my money elsewhere.

      Reply

  • Valeri

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    One thing we forget in this whole argument. Every government all the time tries to get more control over the people. Armed people will be able to offer resistance if it crosses the level of tyranny. Therefore, first thing the goverment will attempt to do is to gradually disarm people. As you understand rifle is more suitable in combat with tyranny, handgun is not suitabe at all. That is why they go after rifles first. Don’t think they will listen to sane argument or statistics. They have proven they will not, because they have absolutely different agenda. If you think what I’m saying is wrong, try to find different _logical_ explanation of what you know about anti-right politicians.

    Reply

  • thomas

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    What is forgotten is that it is not the weapon that causes the trouble it is the man behind it!!!! I own and hunt with my AR-15 for deer,groundhog, wolves, coyote, and other legal game. I have not abused my right why should I be penalized for the other guys fault. Our second amendment right to keep and bear arms is a god given right to every American Citizen!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I served in the military to defend our Constitution and everyday feel we are losing more and more of our rights!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Why do the American people have to suffer for the few that cause trouble! Again I state not the weapon but the person behind it that kills!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Our Right to Keep and Bear Arms dose not state what type of arms (weapons) we are allowed to poses, why should any one else try to change it to their liking just so they can oppress our rights even more!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply

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