2nd Amendment

My Family's Peashooter Is Now an Illegal 'Assault Weapon' in This Illinois Town

Deerfield would fine residents up to $1,000 for owning one of a dizzying array of firearms.


.22 rifle
David Coleman/Dreamstime.com

Though my parents were hardly gun nuts, our family did keep on hand an old semi-automatic .22 rifle with a fixed 14-round capacity magazine.

A magazine that size added convenience to the two or three days a year that we would go target shooting, as it reduced the number of times one would have to pause and reload—a laborious process that required rounds to be fed individually into the rifle's tubular magazine.

What was a convenient target shooter for us is a now deadly assault weapon in Deerfield, Illinois.

This Monday, the Village of Deerfield—a suburban town some 30 miles north of Chicago—passed a sweeping ban on any semi-automatic weapons that come with a fixed magazine capable of holding more than 10 rounds. Also banned are semi-automatic rifles that both accept "high capacity magazines" and feature an adjustable stock, muzzle brake, or pistol grip.

The bill specifically bans AR-15s and a number of pistols and shotguns. After June 13, anyone caught within the town limits with one of these prohibited weapons will face up to $1,000 in daily fines per violation until said violation is corrected.

From USA Today to CNN, most media reports on the bill describe it as an "assault weapon" ban, which is perhaps understandable given that is how the authors themselves describe it. Few bother to note the incredibly common weapons that Deerfield officials have chosen to lump into this category. Weapons like my parents' rifle.

The sweeping nature of the law is matched by the sweeping social change the bill's authors expect it to engender. The legislation's text confidently declares it "may increase the public's sense of safety by effecting a cultural change which communicates the normative value that assault weapons should have no role or purpose in civil society."

Its authors likewise assert that the weapons they ban are "not reasonably necessary to protect an individual's right of self-defense."

A lot of the weapons that this ordinance would affect are not so much unnecessary for defense purposes as wholly inadequate for them. That includes my family's old rifle, which thanks to the small rounds it fired and the time it took to load would be pretty useless in scaring off home invaders.

Those same things that make the rifle a poor tool for defense also make it a poor tool for offense. Prohibiting it is both petty and overreaching.

Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association (ISRA), made this point in response to the Deerfield ban, stating that "enacting bad public policy for the sake of 'doing something' is not the answer. Lawful citizens should not be forced to pay penance for the misdeeds of others."

The ISRA, in conjunction with the Second Amendment Foundation, filed a lawsuit against Deerfield yesterday, seeking to overturn its "assault weapons ban" as unconstitutional.

Should they succeed, the safety of Deerfield residents will not be diminished. But a few more families will be able to own an infrequently used sporting device without risking thousands of dollars in fines.