Suburban supporters cheer concealed carry ruling; opponents want appeal
With a federal court ruling Tuesday possibly paving the way for those in Illinois to carry concealed weapons, some suburban officials are pushing to overturn the decision while others are now figuring out how a new law would work.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals said Tuesday in a 2-1 opinion that state lawmakers have 180 days to write a new law that legalizes concealed carry in Illinois.
State Rep. Ed Sullivan, a Mundelein Republican, called the ruling “historic” and said now the sides have to negotiate what kinds of fees, training and restrictions a concealed carry law in Illinois should include.
“Those of us that support the Second Amendment are glad this came down, finally,” Sullivan said.
But some suburban opponents haven't given up on the courts.
“First of all, I hope they appeal it,” said state Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat. “Let's get a true ruling on it.”
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan didn't commit either way to appealing the decision or leaving it alone.
“The court gave 180 days before its decision will be returned to the lower court to be implemented,” said Madigan spokeswoman Maura Possley. “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.”
Supporters of concealed carry, though, say opponents might be hesitant to appeal because a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Illinois' case could loosen other states' restrictions nationwide. Illinois is the only state that doesn't now allow people to carry concealed weapons in some form.
As for the details of how concealed carry would work here, lawmakers return to Springfield in early January for their regular spring session and could address the issue then.
Local law enforcement officials say they'll be watching. Mundelein Police Chief Ray Rose said police like him need to be consulted to avoid any “knee-jerk” legislation. If they work on putting concealed carry into law, lawmakers will have discretion to decide where weapons won't be allowed, how much people will have to pay for the opportunity to carry and how much training they'll have to go through.
“In a lot of cases, they create a lot more questions than they create answers,” Rose said of the court decision.
Sullivan said concealed carry advocates should have the upper hand because of Tuesday's court victory.
When negotiating legislation earlier this year, supporters relented on points like higher fees and more training in an effort to find a compromise.
Now, Sullivan said, there will still need to be restrictions and fees to carry a concealed firearm, but perhaps not as many restrictions.
“We don't want the wild, wild west,” he said.
Link argued for more restrictions, so the politically prickly issue isn't likely to go away immediately despite the court decision.
“I'd like to see a lot of exceptions,” Link said. “Let's put it that way.”
And Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin of Evanston argued that lawmakers perhaps could even approve a new ban on concealed carry that meets the court's guidelines. He hoped any legislation wouldn't be rushed.
“Anything that takes thoughtful consideration also takes time,” Suffredin said.
The debate over concealed carry has boiled at the Capitol for years, with the suburbs sometimes in the middle of a disagreement that's often not defined strictly by party lines.
Downstate lawmakers tend to be more supportive of the idea. Chicago lawmakers tend to oppose it. And suburban lawmakers often fall in the middle.
As a result, efforts to make Illinois the 50th and final state to grant concealed carry to people have stalled. State Sen. John Millner, a Carol Stream Republican and former police chief, said Tuesday's decision, if anything, presents an opportunity to compromise.
“This is the time for everyone to come together,” he said.
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 Bellevue, Wash.-based Second Amendment Foundation.
Gun rights advocates long have argued that the prohibition against concealed weapons violates the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment and what they see as Americans' right to carry guns for self-defense. The court majority on Tuesday agreed, reversing lower court rulings against the lawsuit that had challenged the state law.
“There is no suggestion that some unique characteristic of criminal activity in Illinois justifies the state's taking a different approach from the other 49 states,” said Judge Richard Posner, who wrote the court's majority opinion. “If the Illinois approach were demonstrably superior, one would expect at least one or two other states to have emulated it.”
Ÿ The Associated Press contributed to this report.