A three-judge panel of the 7th District U.S. Court of Appeals today rejected the Illinois ban on carrying concealed weapons.
Combining appeals from federal district courts in central and southern Illinois, the 2-1 decision declares that the state failed to provide "more than merely a rational basis for believing that its uniquely sweeping ban is justified by an increase in public safety."
The two groups of appellants contended that the Illinois law violates the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as interpreted in previous U.S. Supreme Court cases affirming “the right of law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home.”
The federal District Courts for Central Illinois and Southern Illinois ruled that the opinion does not affirm that right outside the home and dismissed both cases.
"The Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Second Amendment therefore compels us to reverse the decisions in the two cases before us and remand them to their respective district courts for the entry of declarations of unconstitutionality and permanent injunctions."
Today's opinion was written by Judge Richard Posner, with Judge Joel Martin Flaum concurring. Judge Ann Claire Williams dissented. All three judges are from Chicago.
The majority opinion says that the right to have weapons inside the home, as currently allowed by Illinois law and affirmed by the Supreme Court, is less necessary to self-defense than being able to carry a concealed weapon outside the home.
In her dissent, Williams said she sees the U.S. Supreme Court cases differently:
“But those cases did not resolve the question in this case—whether the Second Amendment also requires a state to allow persons to carry ready-to-use firearms in public for potential self defense.”
All 49 of the other states allow some form of concealed carrying of firearms. Former Wisconsin approved a concealed carry law earlier his year.
The ruling is stayed for six months to give the Illinois General Assembly an opportunity to fashion a law that the court would find acceptable. The ruling hints at a possible solution in citing the New York State concealed-carry law, which requires the person seeking the permit to prove that he or she has a need for a concealed weapon.
State Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, praised the ruling.
“Today is a great day for the citizens of Illinois and potentially marks an end to the struggle that gun owners and Second Amendment supporters have faced for far too long in our state. I am looking forward to working with my legislative colleagues to craft a concealed-carry bill that will meet the constitutionality of this case and finally allow Illinoisans to exercise a basic right of self-protection.”
Todd Vandermyde, of the National Rifle Association, says the ruling is a huge victory for gun rights advocates. “It means that, in 2013, Illinois will join 49 other states and we will have a law to allow people to carry handguns for self defense outside the home.”
Vandermyde has been lobbying legislators for years to pass a concealed carry law.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling points out that most murders in Chicago take place outside the home. It adds, "knowing that many law-abiding citizens are walking the streets armed may make criminals timid."
Illinois could try appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court. Scott Mulford, a spokesman in Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office, says the office is not granting interviews about the ruling at this time, but released this statement through email:
The court gave 180 days before its decision will be returned to the lower court to be implemented. That 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.
Governor Pat Quinn has been quite vocal about his anti-gun stance, but his spokeswoman would only offer, "we're reviewing the opinion."
The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by former corrections officer Michael Moore of Champaign, farmer Charles Hooks of Percy in southeastern Illinois and the Second Amendment Foundation, base in Bellevue, Wash.