With Illinois concealed gun ban struck down, some say 'Fight on'

Even as Illinois lawmakers contemplate a new law allowing concealed weapons, as ordered by a US Appeals Court, some plan to take the fight against the 'wrongheaded' ruling to the next level.

Seth Perlman/AP
In this March file photo, gun owners and supporters participate in an Illinois Gun Owners Lobby Day rally at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield. In a big victory for gun rights advocates, a federal appeals court on Tuesday, Dec. 11, struck down a ban on carrying concealed weapons in Illinois.

Now that Illinois’ last-in-the-nation prohibition on carrying concealed weapons has been struck down, lawmakers in Springfield are faced with figuring out the details of where, when, and who can carry a concealed weapon in the state even as some advocate fighting the decision all the way up to the Supreme Court.

The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the state's prohibition as unconstitutional on Tuesday. In his decision, Judge Richard Posner wrote that there is legal precedence for maintaining that gun use outside the home is warranted for self-defense.

“Twenty-first century Illinois has no hostile Indians,” he wrote. “But a Chicagoan is a good deal more likely to be attacked on a sidewalk in a rough neighborhood than in his apartment on the 35th floor of the Park Tower. A woman who is being stalked … is more vulnerable to being attacked while walking to or from her home than when inside.”

The court gave Illinois 180 days to revise its gun law to allow the carrying of guns in public.

Maura Possley, press secretary for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, says the “time period allows our office to review what legal steps can be taken and enables the legislature to consider whether it wants to take action.”

Already, there are calls for Attorney General Madigan to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. Some Chicago aldermen, fearing that overturning the ban will contribute to the city’s rising homicide rate, suggested that the city has the power to ban or restrict the use of concealed weapons within city limits. That tactic could be a long shot, however, considering that the city failed to get the Supreme Court to uphold its longstanding handgun ban, which the court declared unconstitutional in 2010.

On Wednesday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel told reporters he pledged to make available legal resources from the city’s law and police department to Ms. Madigan’s team in reviewing options in making a possible appeal to the court ruling he described as “wrongheaded.”

Proponents for gun rights and stricter gun regulation are likely to battle over the next six months as lawmakers draft the state’s new gun law, which will determine the process for obtaining conceal carry permits, establish where gun owners are not allowed to carry weapons, and create restrictions on who can carry a concealed weapon based on criminal or mental health histories.

States vary widely on all these details. For example, while most states do not allow concealed weapons in churches, or other houses of worship, it is allowed by a handful of states, including Texas, unless the institution posts a sign saying they are banned. In Wisconsin, gun owners are allowed to carry their weapons into taverns, but not if they are drinking alcohol. Some states honor permits only for their residents while others honor those of both residents and nonresidents.

“There are huge differences” in state law, says Cathie Whittenburg, communications director for States United to Prevent Gun Violence, who says she is hoping Illinois follows the lead of New York and New Jersey, which require gun owners to provide justification for a concealed carry permit beyond personal protection. In New Jersey, references are also needed, which is meant to guard against criminal activity.

Other states, such as Virginia, have much less oversight, and even issue permits to residents of some other states that are valid in those states if they complete an online gun class.

“Illinois would want to make a serious consideration in who gets these permits and why,” Ms. Whittenburg says. “You have all these people walking around with not a whole lot of training, certainly not the type of training that compares to our police force. Most states don’t take that seriously.”

In the discussions over concealed carry, Gov. Pat Quinn has already said he will press lawmakers to ban assault weapons in the state, telling reporters Wednesday that the public “overwhelmingly support that.”

“We aren’t going to have people marching along Michigan Avenue [in downtown Chicago], or any other avenue in the state of Illinois, with military-style assault weapons, weapons that are designed to kill people,” he said. 

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