An Illinois law prohibiting people from carrying a loaded gun except for in their home or business was struck down by a federal appeals court.
In a 2-1 ruling, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago today reversed two lower-court decisions upholding the law. It ordered the cases returned to the courts for “declarations of unconstitutionality” and permanent injunctions.
The judges delayed the ruling from taking effect for 180 days to allow the state’s legislature to write a replacement measure consistent with public safety and the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment. Illinois is the only state in the U.S. with an outright ban on carrying a loaded weapon outside the home.
“One doesn’t have to be a historian to realize that a right to keep and bear arms for personal self-defense in the 18th century could not rationally have been limited to the home,” U.S. Circuit Judge Richard A. Posner wrote, referring to the original drafting of the Constitution and the 1791 ratification of the amendment.
The amendment reads in full, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
The U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 ruled that the amendment confers an individual right to keep and bear arms, striking down a handgun ban in the District of Columbia by a 5-4 vote. By the same margin two years later, the high court invalidated a Chicago ordinance that banned guns even within the home.
“To confine the right to be armed to the home is to divorce the Second Amendment from the right of self-defense” described in those rulings, according to Posner’s opinion, in which he was joined by U.S. Circuit Judge Joel Flaum.
Circuit Judge Ann Claire Williams dissented.
“Reasonable people can differ on how guns should be regulated,” she wrote. “Illinois has chosen to prohibit most forms of public carry of ready-to-use guns.”
Absent what she called “clearer indication” that the Second Amendment codified a right to carry guns in public for self-defense, Williams said, that judgment should have been left to the state.
“The court gave 180 days before its decision will be returned to the lower court to be implemented,” state Attorney General Lisa Madigan said in an e-mailed statement. “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.”
One of the lawsuits was filed last year by the Bellvue, Washington-based gun rights group, the Second Amendment Foundation.
“We are very happy with Judge Posner’s majority opinion,” Alan M. Gottlieb, the group’s founder and executive vice president, said in a press statement.
“This is a victory for Illinois citizens who have been long denied a right recognized in the other 49 states; to have the means necessary for self-defense outside the home,” Gottlieb said.
The other case was filed last year by the Illinois State Rifle Association.
“We always felt that the Illinois law was unconstitutional, and it is,” Richard Pearson, executive director of the Chatsworth, Illinois-based group, said today in a phone interview.
He said the group looks forward to working with the state legislature in crafting the new law.
A bill called the Family and Personal Protection Act was introduced by Harrisburg Representative Brandon W. Phelps, a Democrat, last year.
While it permitted the concealed carrying of handguns, the measure made bars, schools, churches, sporting events and other venues off limits, Phelps said today in a phone interview.
The legislator said the bill will probably expire with the end of the current legislative session on Jan. 9 and that new legislation will be drafted.
“There’s going to be a lot of people wanting to have input now,” Phelps said.
Should the state fail to get a bill passed and signed by Governor Pat Quinn within the time frame set forth by the court, there will be no Illinois law limiting the carrying of guns, the legislator said.
The cases are Moore v. Madigan, 12-1269 and Shepard v. Madigan, 12-1788, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (Chicago).
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