Federal Court Throws Out Ill. Concealed Weapons Ban

A federal appeals court has thrown out Illinois' ban on carrying concealed weapons. Now, political leaders — particular those in Chicago — are trying to figure out what comes next. Audie Cornish talks to David Schaper.

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Illinois is on its way to becoming the last state in the union to allow residents to carry concealed weapons, but the state is not doing it willingly. Some political leaders are reacting angrily to yesterday's ruling by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. The court struck down the state's ban on concealed weapons and gave lawmakers 180 days to come up with new legislation. Joining us now to discuss the ruling from Chicago is NPR's David Schaper. And, David, tell us about the ruling.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: Well, it was a 2-1 ruling by a three-judge panel that that essentially says that the Second Amendment's right to bear arms for self-defense is as important for people outside of their homes as it is inside of their homes. And that essentially is saying that that the restriction on prohibiting the concealed carry of weapons is unconstitutional. The ruling did note that the state of Illinois needed to show how its ban on carrying concealed weapons is justified by demonstrating that it has somehow increased public safety, but they said that it - the state has failed to meet that burden.

And in one of the ways it failed is that, you know, some say it's evidenced by the fact that there's an increase in shootings, in gun homicides in Chicago in recent years that shows that the number of gun-control measures we've had here just haven't worked. Now, the court is giving state lawmakers six months now to write a law that may include certain restrictions on carrying concealed weapons. If it fails to do so in those six months, it'll just be legal to carry concealed weapons in Illinois anywhere by anyone without restriction.

CORNISH: And how are people reacting to this?

SCHAPER: Well, the National Rifle Association and other advocates of gun owners' rights are celebrating this ruling. Some of these folks have been saying that they've been fighting Illinois' ban on concealed carry for 20 years, and they call this ruling historic. Christmas came early for law-abiding gun owners in the state is how another one put it. They'll launch a full-court press in January to pass a bill in the legislature that will outline how Illinoisans can carry concealed weapons legally. There was a bill that just barely failed by I think about six votes in the legislature this past year.

CORNISH: And gun control advocates?

SCHAPER: Well, the gun control advocates say that they're disappointed in this ruling. And they argue that there is a public safety interest in keeping people from carrying concealed weapons, and they're urging the state attorney general to file an appeal to this ruling. Among those gun control advocates are the state's Democratic governor, Pat Quinn, who is vowing to make sure that if the state does pass a concealed carry law that it includes strict safeguards. Here's Governor Quinn's reaction today.

GOVERNOR PAT QUINN: The court did say for the reasons of public safety that reasonable limitations can be applied to this particular area, and I think it's important that we stress that public safety comes first.

SCHAPER: Another ardent advocate of gun control is Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the former president - the president's former chief of staff. His reaction was even stronger.

MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL: This ruling runs counter to me not only common sense but what every police chief in the country thinks which is we should not allow more guns on the street. And I think it's wrong. I think it's wrongheaded.

CORNISH: And lastly, David, will the state appeal this ruling to the Supreme Court?

SCHAPER: Well, it's up to the Illinois attorney general, Lisa Madigan, a Democrat, who has been in favor of gun control measures in the past. She says at the time, she's reviewing the ruling - her office does - and that they'll take it under advisement. There's no decision made yet on whether or not they'll appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

CORNISH: NPR's David Schaper in Chicago. David, thank you.

SCHAPER: Thank you, Audie.

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