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Gun sellers, after sales spike ahead of state assault weapons ban, say law won’t survive

A photo of assault weapons on display at Maxon Shooter’s Supplies in Des Plaines before the passage of the Illinois assault weapons ban on Jan. 10, 2023. Owner Dan Eldridge says he will keep the inventory in storage, hoping the law will be struck down.

DES PLAINES – In the days before Illinois’ assault weapons ban was signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday, business ticked up at Maxon Shooter’s Supplies, a gun shop in suburban Des Plaines.

Handgun sales doubled, and rifle sales were 10 times what they were over the last year, according to owner Dan Eldridge.

“There’s been quite a rush of people trying to get in under the wire,” Eldridge said. “Obviously, the law-abiding gun owners are concerned. And they’re voting with their wallets.”

But now that hundreds of thousands of dollars of his inventory is illegal to sell, Eldridge and other gun shop owners are navigating what steps to take next.

Eldridge and other gun store owners believe the ban is unconstitutional and are holding on to their now-illegal stock in hopes of one day selling it in Illinois.

Eldridge’s store will hold those guns and magazines in boxes in the back of the store until they can be sold again.

“Our approach is to hold onto it,” he said.

Maxon Shooter’s Supplies in Des Plaines
Maxon Shooter’s Supplies in Des Plaines (Tim Boyle / Sun-Times file photo)

That attitude is supported by recent statements from downstate sheriffs who say they won’t enforce the ban.

The law, signed Tuesday night by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, immediately bans the sale of assault weapons in Illinois and caps the purchase of magazines at 10 rounds for long guns and 15 for handguns.

Those already owning the banned guns would be allowed to keep them but would need to register them with the Illinois State Police by Jan. 1, 2024. The law also outlaws “switches” that can make guns fully automatic.

Eldridge is also president of a state association of gun shop owners, Federal Firearms Licensees of Illinois. The group plans to file a lawsuit next week challenging the constitutionality of the assault weapons ban, he said.

“The gun-rights people are going to win,” he said. “The law infringes on constitutionally protected activity.”

But that rush was nationwide — leading to a shortage of inventory compounded by effects of the pandemic, Eldridge said. This time, the rush to buy guns was in Illinois only, and the supply of guns was able to meet the demand, he said.

Unlike other gun shops, Midwest Sporting Goods in west suburban Lyons did not see a big bump in business in the lead-up to the assault weapons ban, said owner Noel Incavo Jr.

“For us, it hasn’t been a big push up or down,” he said.

His shop has taken down its display of illegal rifles and replaced magazines in guns so they are compliant with the new limits, 10 bullets for rifles and 15 for pistols, he said.

Incavo plans to sell some of the now-illegal stock out of state, but he’s hoping a lawsuit will challenge the law.

“It might not be enforceable,” he said. “On our side, you’ve done all this and it’s affected law-abiding citizens.”

Shore Galleries, a gun store and range, at 3318 W. Devon Ave., Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023, in Lincolnwood.
Shore Galleries, a gun store and range in Lincolnwood, still had assault-type rifles on display as of Wednesday afternoon, hours after the ban went into effect. (Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times)

Just north of Chicago, in Lincolnwood, the gun shop and range Shore Galleries on Devon Avenue still had more than a dozen assault-type rifles on its display walls Wednesday afternoon, hours after the governor signed the law.

David Cardenas, a gun owner who was headed to the target range at Shore Galleries, said he supports the assault weapons ban, although it won’t affect him because he doesn’t own them.

“I’m glad they did it,” said Cardenas, a Chicago-based artist. He said the ban would prevent people with mental illness from purchasing the weapons. “So I think it’s a step in the right direction.”

Contributing: Mohammad Samra

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Illinois Newsroom gets stories from public radio stations from across the state, including WBEZ-Chicago, WCBU-Peoria, WGLT-Normal, WVIK-Rock Island, WIUM-Macomb, WNIJ-DeKalb, WSIU-Carbondale, WUIS-Springfield, and St. Louis Public Radio.

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