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This Illinois Town Might Not Have Intended to Ban My Family's 'Peashooter,' But They Still Did

A plain reading of the text suggests that Deerfield's new law covers all semi-automatic rifles that can hold more than 10 rounds.

22 rifleDavid Coleman/Dreamstime.comIn a Friday article "My Family's Peashooter Is Now an Illegal 'Assault Weapon' in This Illinois Town," I wrote that a new "assault weapon" ban in Deerfield, Illinois, was written so broadly that it outlawed an old .22 semi-automatic rifle kept by my decidedly non-firearm-obsessed family.

Since publishing that article, I have received a number of emails and comments from readers claiming that my family's rifle would not actually be prohibited because of a specific exemption contained in the Deerfield ordinance.

I understand why people would come to this conclusion. But that's not what the law says.

The Deerfield ordinance makes it unlawful to store or keep assault weapons, promising fines for people who do not comply. The ordinance also gives several definitions for what counts as an unlawful assault weapon. The first is "a semiautomatic rifle that has the capacity to accept a large capacity magazine detachable or otherwise"—with "large capacity magazine" defined as a magazine that can hold more than 10 rounds—and which comes with one of several features, including a pistol grip or adjustable stock. The second definition reads "a semiautomatic rifle that has a fixed magazine that has the capacity to accept more than ten rounds of ammunition."

As many commenters have pointed out, the definition of "large capacity magazine" includes a specific exemption for "a 22 caliber tube ammunition feeding device"—the same device on my family's rifle. That would certainly exempt my family's rifle from the first definition. But it would not exempt it from the second definition. The .22 caliber tube ammunition feeding device is still a "fixed magazine," even if it is exempted from being a "large capacity magazine." Thus from a plain interpretation of the text, is still prohibited.

Why would the bill include both a carveout for tube magazines and a catch-all prohibition on semi-automatic rifles with magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds? I can only assume sloppy drafting by the bill's authors.

Interestingly, the federal assault weapons ban being floated by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) makes sure to specifically exempt .22 tube feeding magazines from its definition of semi-automatic assault weapons. Feinstein's definition reads "a semiautomatic rifle that has a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds, except for an attached tubular device designed to accept, and capable of operating only with, .22 caliber rimfire ammunition."

The writing in of an exemption for the .22 caliber tube magazines suggests that the people who wrote the Deerfield ordinance might not have intended to ban rifles like the one my family owns. Given the broadness of that second definition for assault weapon however, it seems inescapable—at least according to the plain text—that they banned them anyway.

If you were a resident of Deerfield, would you continue to hold onto a semi-automatic .22 rifle that can hold more than 10 rounds, hoping that all the town's cops and prosecutors will look beyond the actual text to the at-best-ambiguous intent of the authors? I certainly wouldn't bet my freedom on that.

Accidental prohibitions are not unheard of in the world of firearms regulation, as Reason has previously reported. Hence the need that laws involving minute technical detail be written with precision.

Photo Credit: David Coleman/Dreamstime.com

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  • Longtorso, Johnny||

    Accidental prohibition my ass. The whole point of modern law is to write vague BS, challenge objections with "show me in the law where it says that", then going to a friendly judge later arguing the law 'really' says what you wanted all along.

  • Cy||

    They can't even read the 2nd amendment, written in direct plain English, without doing mental gymnastics to reach their desired conclusions. I really don't want to imagine how bad it's going to be in the future when they literally have hundreds of pages of a law to enforce as liberally as their political views and ambitions see fit.

  • Jerryskids||

    I refer you to the case a few years ago where the Dept. of Agriculture was writing new regs for hazardous spills containment systems around farm storage tanks and included liquids containing 5% or more oil in their hazardous substances list. It was sailing along nicely until the dairy farmers realized that fresh milk contains more than 5% oil and complained. The D of A poo-pooed the idea that they would apply the regs to milk but when the dairy farmers insisted on getting it in writing, the bureaucrats suddenly started getting shifty-eyed. They finally did exempt milk, but not without first insisting that they did indeed have the authority to include milk if they wanted to. Smart dairy farmers are keeping a close eye on any suggested changes or re-interpretations of that bit of legislation regulation.

  • ||

    Remember how officers were responding to a call that Freddie Gray was waiving a knife? And that it was later discovered that the knife he was waiving was clearly banned under the law? Neither do I.

  • creech||

    Surely one of the "town fathers" or cops or lawyers has an firearm like those described. Rat one of them out and see what happens.

  • Just Say'n||

    Surely the "right people" have been exempted from the law. That's how gun control always works.

  • Cy||

    Thank you for your service!

  • sarcasmic||

    Nothing is more heroic than committing acts of violence for the benefit of politicians.

  • Careless||

    Yes, police and former police are exempted

  • BigChiefWahoo||

    The purpose of that exemption for .22 rimfires is an attempt to minimize possible opposition to their ordinance. Twenty-two rimfire auto-loaders are the most common kind of auto-loaders, and their reasoning is that owners of those rimfire auto-loaders won't actively oppose the ordinance if such guns are exempted. Then, sometime in the future, rimfire auto-loading rifles will be subject to increased restrctions. For the 'common good', of course.

    Don't be fooled!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I can only assume sloppy drafting by the bill's author.

    Lives were at stake.

  • Just Say'n||

    "As many commenters have pointed out, the definition of "large capacity magazine" includes a specific exemption for "a 22 caliber tube ammunition feeding device"—the same device on my family's rifle."

    It would appear that the comment section is populated with a lot of real libertarian-y commentators.

  • Ken Hagler||

    "If you were a resident of Deerfield, would you continue to hold onto a semi-automatic .22 rifle that can hold more than 10 rounds, hoping that all the town's cops and prosecutors will look beyond the actual text to the at-best-ambiguous intent of the authors? "

    Yes, and I'd also continue to hold onto anything else covered by the law.

  • H. Farnham||

    Beat me to it

  • Chasman1965||

    If it had a tubular magazine, I would. My defense would be the sentence about tubular magazines. IMHO, the author was less than honest by that new paragraph in the editorial. Tubular magazines on .22 Semi-autos are exceptions. The author simply failed to make his point, because he didn't read the law in full.

    It's sad, because I'm a pro-gun person, and the above article does nothing to help my side. It shows a clueless author trying to make a point based on his incomplete reading of the law.

  • Tionico||

    and your point is mooted by the simple FACT that Illinois State Law specifically restricts ALL limitations on that type of rifle to the STATE. No lesser jurisdiction can make such restriictions into law. It is further mooted by the simple FACT that the US Constitution protects the RIGHT of THE PEOPLE to own, use, carry about, buy, sell, etc, weapons of military usefulness in common use in the present day, and that said RIGHT shall not be infringed BY ANYONE or ANYTHING.

    This town's stupid hooh hahs are overt=stepping their governmental authority. The townsfolks need to rise up and TELL them to back down, to repeal the ordinance... then go after their personal bonds and charge them with felony perjury, swearing an oath (that of their office as public officials) and failing to uphold it.

  • H. Farnham||

    "would you continue to hold onto a semi-automatic .22 rifle"

    Yes, even if the law was written 'possession of any firearms is prohibited'.

  • billdeserthills||

    I understand the actual 'rule of law' is that no city, state or municipality is allowed to make a law abridging the Constitution or Bill of Rights, which makes this whole thing a moot point.

  • gaoxiaen||

    How quaint.

  • DaveH||

    By the time you extract enough energy from that gunpowder to cock the gun for the next round, the bullet probably just dribbles out the muzzle? Just askin'

  • Osmar||

    I hunt small game with mine. Works pretty well.

  • Kivlor||

    If you were a resident of Deerfield, would you continue to hold onto a semi-automatic .22 rifle that can hold more than 10 rounds, hoping that all the town's cops and prosecutors will look beyond the actual text to the at-best-ambiguous intent of the authors?

    No. I'd continue to hold on to my semi-automatic rifle that can hold 10 rounds, and look forward to the lawsuit I'll be winning. It wouldn't be the first time I beat my retarded city for passing stupid laws.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    So, if I read this correctly, this ordinance allows for possession of an M1, 30.06 caliber that accepts 8 round clips [yes, clips and not magazines is correct in this instance] that Patton called the "greatest battle implement ever devised" is legal but a Ruger 10/22 is not?
    Are they really that stupid [rhetorical question]?

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    Well, they've pretty much openly stated that's how it should work: gun control laws are supposed to be written by people who know fuck-all about guns. Any attempt to describe how guns really work is "gunsplaining" (which I expect will soon be declared a form of "hate speech").

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    Gunsplaining; "It's like the NRA is basically threatening us!"

  • 2aguy||

    No...they will be back for the Ruger as well....just wait for the next mass shooting.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    I think it was Esquire, about a year ago, that listed the "most dangerous" guns in the world, and included on that list was the Ruger 10/22/

  • Occam's Woodchipper||

    What a rag. Unholy trinity with Vanity Fair and the Rolling Stone.

  • LarryA||

    Pedantically (therefore legally) the Garand has a fixed magazine that the eight-round clip fits into.

  • Tionico||

    and this insane new law specifically declares that semiautoatic rifles with fixed magazines are also banned.. but the venerable Garand only holds eight. However, that rifle has the capability to place those eight rounds with far greater accuracy and stopping power at ranges of even well above 1000 yards. Given the choice between an M 1 Garand and an AR 15, I'd take the Garand. Now maybe an AR 10 might get me to turn my head a bit..... the 7.62 x 51 is not as authoritative as the 7.62 x 57, but its close enough to be useful.

  • Naaman Brown||

    .30-06 Springfield is actually 7.62x63mm in metric notation.

    If ARs are supposedly deserving of banning because a 5.56x45 caliber makes a more grisly wound than the run of the mill street pistol round (.25 ACP to 9mm or .38), they haven't looked into the wounding effect of the .30-06 compared to a concealable pistol round.

  • Tionico||

    and this insane new law specifically declares that semiautoatic rifles with fixed magazines are also banned.. but the venerable Garand only holds eight. However, that rifle has the capability to place those eight rounds with far greater accuracy and stopping power at ranges of even well above 1000 yards. Given the choice between an M 1 Garand and an AR 15, I'd take the Garand. Now maybe an AR 10 might get me to turn my head a bit..... the 7.62 x 51 is not as authoritative as the 7.62 x 57, but its close enough to be useful.

  • 2aguy||

    Don't give them the benefit of the doubt, they knew what they were doing. They want to ban all guns, and they will do whatever they have to to get that done. I call it the gun control Bait and Switch. They tell uninformed voters they only want to ban one thing, then when the actual legislation comes out, all of a sudden you .22 tube fed rifle is also banned.

    They knew what they were doing, and they will be back for whatever is left after the next shooting.

  • Naaman Brown||

    A lot of people bought the idea the Women's Christian Temperance Union was only after intoxicating liquors, Demon Rum and John Barleycorn as served in bars and saloons, dens of iniquity frequented by sots and topers, an a blight of crime.

    They woke to find that Prohibition banned "intoxicating liquors" not only as distilled alcohol, rum and whiskey, but also wine and beer and anything over 3.2% alcohol.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Accidental prohibitions are not unheard of in the world of firearms regulation, as Reason has previously reported. Hence the need that laws involving minute technical detail be written with precision.

    Or, in the case of firearms bans, not written at all.

  • Rebel Scum||

    Firearm bans are illegal. The end.

  • Pat001||

    My city banned pit bulls.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    Government's gonna govern.

  • gaoxiaen||

    Govern= Fuck over. And exploit, license, regulate, and tax such weapons. And eliminate anyone who disagrees.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I would have showed up at the city hall meeting and informed them that there is nothing in the US or state Constitution that gives government the power to ban something. Even the prohibitionists knew that they needed a constitutional amendment to ban alcohol. I would advise them that if they did not immediately repeal the ordinance, I would be suing and getting damages and attorney's fees.

    If they failed to comply, I would picket the city hall on public property with huge signs that the city council hates dogs. I would buy every billboard in the area and put up a sign showing the city hall members executing pit bulls via guillotine.

    I LOVE fucking with local tyrants.

    All my city and county politicians collectively sigh when I stand up to speak during public comments.

  • Pat001||

    Worst dog bite my vet ever got was from a little wiener dog...

  • Naaman Brown||

    According to H.L.Mencken's "The Uplifters are at it again" 1924, after the passage of Alcohol Prohibition, the same progressive crusaders turned their attention to handguns.

    Today's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is descended literally from the BUreau of Prohibition that enforced the Volstead Act.

    The federal gun law 1934 National Firearms Act is modeled on the Harrison Narcotics Act.

    War on Demon Rum, War on Drugs were soooo successful we muuuust have a War on Guns. (where's the roll eyes emoticon?)

  • Robert||

    DEA tried to argue that hemp products were, despite their being excluded as per se controlled substances, subject to control on the basis of their containing a controlled substance, cannabinoids. They could just as easily subject meat to controls on the basis of containing the controlled substances testosterone & bufotenin.

  • gaoxiaen||

  • loveconstitution1789||

    In a Friday article "My Family's Peashooter Is Now an Illegal 'Assault Weapon' in This Illinois Town," I wrote that a new "assault weapon" ban in Deerfield, Illinois, was written so broadly that it outlawed an old .22 semi-automatic rifle kept by my decidedly non-firearm-obsessed family.

    It would not be banned because any law infringing on the right to keep and bear arms is unconstitutional on its face.

    If you give the traitors to the Constitution any leeway, they will assume their laws are legal.

  • XM||

    SUE the city. To oblivion.

  • LarryA||

    What happens with the .17 cal rimfires?

  • Naaman Brown||

    Or the 5mm Remington rimfire, approximately .20 caliber? There are enough still in use that Centurion does an occassional production run of ammunition.

    Or does the odd calibers, different from the common .22 rimfire, render them "unusual and dangerous" in the 19th century terminology?

  • Tionico||

    I believe it is the Second Ammendment Foundation, together with the Illonois State Rifle Association, have filed suit agains tthe city in a federal court, on the basis that this law violates a federally protected civil right. One of their points raised in the pleading is that STATE LAW in Illinois prohibits any jursisdictioin less than the state any restrictioins on any "assault rifle" or similar.

    They are also seeking an immediate injunction, stopping any move toward enforcement of this outrage.

    I hope that when the town council is a puddle of defeat on the floor of their chambers, someone else will serve them with recall petitions, and yet another with criminal complaints for their perjury... felony level. Swearing an oath (that of their office) then failing to perform on that oath. Felons cannot vote or hold public office.. nor can they be in possession of any firearms, which, by itself, would be some sweet justice.

  • Naaman Brown||

    Deerfield IL = Morton Grove II

    The 2001 Morton Grove handgun ban was repealed after SCOTUS decided Heller 2008; they did not wait til MacDonald 2010. And they apparently had more sense than Chicago. Or Deerfield.

  • Naaman Brown||

    A lot if state and local gun laws are based on the SCOTUS decision in Cruikshank 1876 that over turned a conviction under the Force Act, a post-Civil War Civil Rights act, by limiting the rights under the Bill of Rights to protection from infringement by Congress, leaving state, count and municipal governments and private parties like Cruikshank (KKK night rider) free to violate the BoR rights of individuals.

    Cruikshank was partial ly vitiated by another SCOTUS decision shortly after it was handed down.

    Cruikshank was completely vitiated by the decisions of SCOTUS in the cases of Guest and Price, convictions under the Force Act following the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    It would seem to me that the state, county and municipal gun laws justified by citing Cruikshank (check how the various gun control groups cite Cruikshank along with Presser and Miller as precedent) are founded on a principle that has completely unraveled.

  • D-Griff||

    I think they meant to exclude your rifle but it wouldn't surprise me if stupid legislation was also poorly constructed.

  • dpbisme||

    I have yet to hear what they expect the people who own these rifles do with them. Libtards really hate people they disagree with...

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