New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella has joined a group of 26 attorneys general and state legislatures in a brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Illinois’ law banning AR-15 rifles and their standard 30-round magazines.

The Protect Illinois Communities Act (PICA) was passed in January 2023 and upheld by the Illinois State Supreme Court last August. It banned the purchase of AR-15s—the most popular rifle in America—and ordered current owners in the Land of Lincoln to register their banned firearms with the state.

According to the gun law news site, “only 1.2 percent of the state’s 2.4 million documented gun owners complied with the state’s terms for allowing continued ownership of AR-15s.”

The Illinois law makes it illegal to make, sell, or possess certain guns, as well as parts, accessories, and magazines. Magazines holding more than ten rounds (rifle) or 15 rounds (pistol) are also banned.

According to press reports, as many as 80 of Illinois’ 102 county sheriffs have declined to enforce the new law, declaring it a clear violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Now about half of America’s attorneys general, including Formella, are telling the court they agree.

According to a statement from Formella’s office, the Seventh Circuit’s decision in Barnett v. Raoul found the Illinois gun ban constitutional, holding that the plain language of the Second Amendment and the term “Arms” does not apply to AR-15s because of their militaristic appearance. The Seventh Circuit’s decision lacks any textual or historical basis. In fact, the arms the Second Amendment originally protected were those used in military combat. The Seventh Circuit’s analysis bears no resemblance to the analysis prescribed by the Supreme Court of the United States.

The brief asks the Supreme Court to grant certiorari and correct the Seventh Circuit’s erroneous decision, arguing that “[e]ven apart from having no basis in the text of the Second Amendment, the Seventh Circuit’s artificial divide between ‘militaristic’ firearms and firearms used for self-defense is indefensible.”

Rep. JR Hoell (R-Dunbarton) with the New Hampshire Firearms Coalition, says the Illinois law is unconstitutional on its face.

“Under the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen decision, ‘arms’ would have historically included all of the arms that were used in the Revolutionary War, including — but not limited to — arms like muskets and cannons. The Bruen decision resets the standard to include all types of items including standard military grade hardware that would have been used by our Founding Fathers.”

Last week, the Gun Owners of America (GOA) and its sister organization, the Gun Owners Foundation filed a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court in their challenge to the law.

“We urge the Justices to hear the pleas of millions of Americans in Illinois and several other states nationwide who cannot purchase many of the commonly owned semiautomatic firearms available today because of the unconstitutional laws passed by anti-gun politicians,” said Erich Pratt, senior vice president of Gun Owners of America.

But’s Stephen Gutowski says the Supreme Court may not be ready to weigh in.

“The Supreme Court’s Bruen ruling has reinvigorated challenges to AR-15 and other gun bans. However, they’ve faced mostly skeptical lower courts. That’s likely because the states that have such bans are more liberal, and so are the federal circuits that oversee them,” Gutowski told NHJournal.
“This is also a problem for gun-rights advocates challenging these laws because it means a circuit split is unlikely to happen, and the Supreme Court is much more likely to take up a case when a split exists. Of course, the Court could still grant cert in this case. Then we’ll get to see how they would apply their own test to AR-15 bans. But it’s less than a sure thing due to the lack of a circuit split.”