A federal court in Chicago has struck down Illinois' last-in-the-nation prohibition on carrying guns in public.
The ruling, by the U.S. Court of Appeals 7th Circuit, is a complex 47-page decision, but the crux is on Page 4: “(T)he constitutional right of armed self defense is broader than the right to have a gun in one’s home.”
State officials are still deciding whether to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. Meanwhile, pro-gun advocates are declaring victory in the last concealed-carry battle in America.
"It's absolutely huge," says Todd Vandermyde, the National Rifle Association's chief Illinois lobbyist, who has been trying for years to get concealed-carry legislation passed there.
"You have the court of appeals finding that the Second Amendment . . . (doesn't) only apply to guns in the home," as Illinois law currently holds.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office, which defended the state's prohibition on concealed-carry, is still studying the decision, according to spokeswoman Maura Possley.
"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," Possley said in a written statement.
Illinois is currently the only state in the nation that specifically bans carrying loaded handguns in public.
"Remarkably, Illinois is the only state that maintains a flat ban on carrying ready-to-use guns outside the home," notes the court's 2-1 decision.
". . . It is not that all states but Illinois are indifferent to the dangers that widespread public carrying of guns may pose. Some may be. But others have decided that a proper balance between the interest in self-defense and the dangers created by carrying guns in public is to limit the right to carry a gun to responsible persons rather than to ban public carriage altogether . . ."
The court's ruling sets a 180-day window for the state Legislature to pass a concealed-carry law that passes constitutional muster.
Vandermyde, the NRA lobbyist, said that deadline effectively puts gun advocates in charge of the debate, and that failure to pass a concealed-carry law would mean completely unrestricted firearm rights.
"They have 180 days to enact a carry law, or else there is no prohibition on carrying a gun. There's not much else to argue about," said Vandermyde. "If they won't pass a bill . . . then you could walk down the street with a rifle slung over your back and there's nothing they can do about it."