The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled Tuesday that Illinois’ total ban on carrying firearms for self-defense outside the home or business is unconstitutional. Illinois was the only state in the nation not to have some form of concealed carry after Wisconsin recently approved a carry law.
The action involves lead plaintiff Mary Shepard, an Illinois resident and a trained gun owner, who is licensed to carry a concealed handgun in both Utah and Florida.
On September 28, 2009, while working as the treasurer of her church, Ms. Shepard and an 83-year-old co-worker were viciously attacked and beaten by a six-foot-three-inch, 245 pound man with a violent past and a criminal record. Ms. Shepard and her co-worker were lucky to survive, as each of them suffered major injuries to the head, neck and upper body. Ms. Shepard’s injuries required extensive surgeries and she continues physical therapy to this day attempting to recover from her injuries.
In the 2-1 decision, Judge Richard Posner ruled that Illinois’ ban on carriage is unconstitutional. Posner wrote in the decision, “One doesn’t have to be a historian to realize that a right to keep and bear arms for personal self-defense in the eighteenth century could not rationally have been limited to the home. . . . Twenty-first century Illinois has no hostile Indians. But a Chicagoan is a good deal more likely to be attacked on a sidewalk than in his apartment on the 35th floor.”
“We’re extremely pleased with the ruling,” Illinois State Rifle Association leader Richard Pearson said. “Now that the court has ruled, we will work with legislators to craft a concealed-carry bill for the state of Illinois.”
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals gave state lawmakers six months to come up with a version of the law that legalizes concealed carry. A new law could be in place by January, Pearson said. A bill has already been written by Rep. Brandon Phelps that includes background checks, field provisions and other issues.
In the court’s majority opinion, Judge Richard Posner wrote that the state “had to provide us with more than merely a rational basis for believing that its uniquely sweeping ban is justified by an increase in public safety. It has failed to meet this burden.”
“We are disinclined to engage in another round of historical analysis to determine whether eighteenth-century America understood the Second Amendment to include a right to bear guns outside the home. The Supreme Court has decided that the amendment confers a right to bear arms for self-defense, which is as important outside the home as inside,” the judges ruled.
“The theoretical and empirical evidence (which overall is inconclusive) is consistent with concluding that a right to carry firearms in public may promote self-defense,” the decision said. “Illinois had to provide us with more than merely a rational basis for believing that its uniquely sweeping ban is justified by an increase in public safety. It has failed to meet this burden.”
The Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Second Amendment compelled the appeals court to rule the ban unconstitutional, the judges said. But the court gave 180 days to “allow the Illinois legislature to craft a new gun law that will impose reasonable limitations, consistent with the public safety and the Second Amendment as interpreted in this opinion, on the carrying of guns in public.”
In issuing its ruling, among other cases and papers, the Appellate Court cited the National Center for Policy Analysis’s 2000 study, Texas Concealed Handgun Carriers: Law-abiding Public Benefactors.
Sterling Burnett of the National Center for Policy Analysis, said, “The case before the court combined two cases brought by multiple parties including the Illinois State Rifle Association, the National Rifle Association and the Second Amendment Foundation on behalf of two different sets of Illinois resident’s affected by the Illinois carry ban. In issuing its ruling, the majority opinion written by Judge Richard Posner found that the lower courts had clearly ignored the fact that two recent rulings by the Supreme Court: Heller and McDonald (versus Chicago), which made clear the right to keep and bear arms was an individual right and that, since one reason was for self-protection, people had the right to self-defense outside the home as well as inside.”
Burnett said the appeals court did not remand the case to the lower courts for evidentiary proceedings since the case did not concern evidence. It was a legal issue, and as a matter of law, the Supreme Court of the United States had spoken. The case was sent back to the lower courts with a directive to declare the Illinois bans unconstitutional and issue a permanent injunction. It did stay the implementation of the ruling for 180 days in order to allow the legislature time to write a law that legalizes carrying firearms outside the home.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, who favors strict gun control laws and proposed an assault-weapons ban earlier this year that lawmakers defeated, has vowed to again bring legislation that would prohibit the sale or possession of semi-automatic rifles and other guns.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office, which is responsible for defending the state’s laws, said it was reviewing the ruling and would comment later.
The formal name of the action was Nos. 12-1269, 12-1788 MICHAEL MOORE, et al., and MARY E. SHEPARD, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. LISA MADIGAN, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF ILLINOIS, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Appeals from the United States District Courts for the Central District of Illinois and the Southern District of Illinois. Nos. 3:11-cv-3134-SEM-BGC and 3:11-cv-405-WDS-PMF—Sue E. Myerscough and William D. Stiehl, Judges. The case was argued June 8, 2012. The National Rifle Association funded the appeal. The Illinois State Rifle Association is a co-plaintiff in this case.
“The (Illinois) legislature, in the new session, will be forced to take up a statewide carry law,” said NRA lobbyist Todd Vandermyde.
House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, a longtime gun control advocate, said she hoped the state would appeal the ruling. But Currie also said lawmakers must “get cracking” on how to respond to the ruling and begin parsing its key points.
“Today’s ruling is a victory for all law-abiding citizens in Illinois and gun owners throughout the country,” said Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President of NRA. “The court recognized that the text and history of the Second Amendment guarantee individuals the right to carry firearms outside the home for self-defense and other lawful purposes. In light of this ruling, Mary Shepard and the people of Illinois will finally be able to exercise their Second Amendment rights.”
Added Chris W. Cox, executive director of NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, “This ruling makes clear that Illinois cannot deny law-abiding residents the right to carry a firearm for self-defense outside the home. This is a step in the right direction for all gun owners. We know it probably won’t be the end of this case, and we’re ready to keep fighting until the courts fully protect the entire Second Amendment.”