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Arcadia Kust/MEDILL

Shoppers at a Sunday gun show in Wheaton get information on how to apply for a Utah concealed carry permit. These are valid in more than 30 states and can be granted to nonresidents. For details, see sidebar.

Despite heated opposition, Illinois seems poised to legalize concealed carry

by Arcadia Kust
Dec 05, 2012


Used with the permission of Illinois Carry

Supporters of concealed carry at Illinois Gun Owners Lobby Day 2012. This is an annual event where supporters meet in Springfield to lobby their representatives.


Used with the permission of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence

Gov. Pat Quinn is presented with an award from Patrick D. Thompson, board chairman for the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence.


Arcadia Kust/MEDILL

A map of Illinois showing the counties that voted to approve concealed carry on Nov. 6.

Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals

Judge Ann Claire Williams and Judge Richard Posner question the defense lawyer in the cases of Moore vs. Madigan and Shepard vs. Madigan. Both lawsuits allege that the right to carry is supported by the Second Amendment.

Related Links

Click here to read an abstract from the study The Impact of Right-to-Carry Laws and the National Research Council Report

Utah and others make conceal carry permits available to non-Utah residents

In Utah, it’s legal to carry a concealed firearm as long as you have the permit, and these permits also entitle you to carry in more than 30 other states. They can also be issued to non-residents from remote locations. Other states have similar reciprocity laws.

“I have a right-to-carry license from the state of Florida, and it’s recognized in 32 other states,” said Valinda Rowe, spokeswoman for Illinois Carry.

“When I’m in those states, I have the right to legally carry a firearm on my person or in my vehicle to protect myself. But when I come home to Illinois, that firearm has to be unloaded, enclosed in a case, and in Chicago, it also has to be inaccessible.”

Colleen Daley, executive director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, said these permits create a burden for law enforcement because there is no federal database of card holders. She also said the permits are not standardized in appearance, making them easier to counterfeit, and because some states don’t issue a physical permit.

“We think these are offensive and not safe,” said Daley.

On Friday 10 attorneys general, including Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, sent a letter to the U.S. Senate objecting to National Concealed Carry Reciprocity legislation. This would force Illinois to acknowledge permits from other states and allow an out-of-state gun owner the right to concealed carry while in Illinois despite the state law.

Opponents say the proposed federal law infringes upon states’ rights, while supporters say it is supported by the Second Amendment.
Illinois is now the only state in the country that doesn’t allow residents to carry concealed firearms, and while the opposition continues to dig in its heels, supporters are gaining ground.

Ten counties in Illinois voted Nov. 6 in support of referendums that would allow concealed carry. While the measures are non-binding (local law can’t override state law), it lets lawmakers know there are many residents that support the idea.

House Bill 148, which would allow for concealed carry in Illinois, has gained more political traction than previous similar legislation. This is partially due to its endorsement by the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association, the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, the Chicago Police Lieutenants Association and the Chicago Police Sergeants’ Association.

When the bill was most recently put up for a vote on Feb. 22, it was anticipated to be six votes shy of the supermajority needed to pass, so its main sponsor postponed the vote. The legislation has been in the Rules Committee (where a bill sits until its sponsor wants to introduce it for a vote) since then. However, it could still be reintroduced this week or in January during the legislative veto session, and some opponents worry that it could get enough votes to pass.

With 36 lame duck legislators, the possibility of last-minute deals between outgoing lawmakers and those willing to trade votes to get majorities on other issues is high, said Cook County Commissioner and member of the Stop Conceal Carry Coalition, Larry Suffredin, in a recent press conference.

No official comment as to whether the bill would be reintroduced for a vote during this general assembly could be obtained from its main sponsor, Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg).

However, according to the spokesperson for Illinois Carry, Valinda Rowe, “in talking to the legislators, they’re wanting to see how the courts rule on two lawsuits.”

These lawsuits are Shepard vs. Madigan and Moore vs. Madigan, with Madigan being Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who represents the state. The plaintiffs in both of these cases allege that Illinois’ ban on carrying firearms in public is a violation of the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

The Illinois State Rifle Association is a co-plaintiff in the Shepard case, and the National Rifle Association is picking up all the legal costs. Getting a right to carry for Illinois residents is a top priority for the organization, said Jacqueline Otto, a spokeswoman for the NRA.

The National Rifle Association is not involved with the Moore case.

Both lawsuits were heard first in Illinois circuit courts, where judges upheld the state ban on carrying firearms. However, the plaintiffs appealed, and on June 8 combined oral arguments were heard for both cases at the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.

During the oral arguments, the defense attorney argued before Judges Richard Posner and Ann Claire Williams that there is no historical basis to suggest that people should be allowed to carry firearms in public.

“Then what does it mean to bear arms if there’s no right to carry arms in a public place?” Posner asked. “You don’t bear arms in your house? You don’t march around with a gun over your shoulder, right? It’s not just a right to keep arms? It’s a right to carry it.”

There is no deadline for the judges to rule. However, if the court does declare the ban unconstitutional, the legislation to uphold that ruling won’t be far behind.

“It could be any day,” said Rowe, but added that they had hoped to have a ruling by Thanksgiving.

“We have received some feedback that it could come back in their [the plaintiff’s] favor,” said Colleen Daley, executive director for the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence. “But the ruling hasn’t come down yet, so we’ll deal with it when it does.”

According to legislators, if the ruling does not come down in favor of the plaintiffs, a similar bill allowing concealed carry would still be introduced in the next general assembly.

Concealed carry still faces staunch opposition, and the Stop Conceal Carry Coalition was formed recently by the Rev. Michael Pfleger, Cook County Commissioner Suffredin and others to remind legislators of that fact. The coalition has put together an online petition against concealed carry that has received 7,010 signatures since Nov. 19.

“We want to make sure that the legislators understood that while some people in some states may think conceal carry is a good idea, it’s very clear that the majority of people in Illinois do not want this,” said Stop Conceal Carry Coalition organizer, Lee Goodman.

The Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence is also member of the coalition.

“Our concern is that there’s absolutely no reason to put more guns on the streets. It’s the unintended consequences that I don’t think people think about,” said Daley.

The division between those that want concealed carry and those that don’t is largely geographic: Chicago and the suburbs vs. the rest of the state.

“It’s not a Republican/Democrat issue, it’s far more geographically based,” said Illinois Rep. Rich Morthland (R-Cordova), a co-sponsor of the bill. “The main sponsor is a Democrat.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has received an “F” rating from the National Rifle Association because of a pro-gun control voting record, and Gov. Pat Quinn has repeatedly stood up against the idea concealed carry. The Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence recently gave him an award for his continued support.

Daniel Webster is the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, a group that engages in its own research as well as analyzing public policy.

According to Webster, most of the current research available on the correlation between violence and the implementation of concealed carry are not able to draw any reliable conclusions because the studies are scientifically flawed. He cites a 2005 book called “Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review,” based on analysis of the available research conducted by the National Research Council and other groups, as well as a panel convened by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, there is a newer study that Webster said he believes is more accurate, “The Impact of Right-to-Carry Laws.” He said there are still inconsistencies in the results.

“Because they run so many different models and estimates, there’s inconsistencies in many of the analyses,” said Webster. “But they find no overall effect in either direction.”

“However, the models I think are the most compelling and convincing tend to show more increases in violence, principally in aggravated assaults, but in a very small way in in terms of percentage. The estimate is in the range of 1-3 percent.”

Webster said that from a public safety standpoint opposing concealed carry may be less effective than strengthening most states’ standards on who is legally eligible to own a gun. Since most gun-control laws only prohibit those with felonies from legally owning a gun, people with misdemeanor violence and drug convictions, even though some of these get pled down from felony charges, are still considered legal to carry.

Webster points out that only five of the states that allow for concealed carry make residents wait until they’re 21 to own a gun. In most states it is legal to own a gun at the age of 18. According to research, this is also the time that the likelihood to commit violent crime is peaking. He said it would make more sense from a public safety, political and public satisfaction standpoint to tighten the standards for legal gun ownership. Once done, it might be possible to allow more latitude to carry publicly with far less risk to the public.

Despite opposition to concealed carry, supporters think the idea has gained sufficient traction, and if not this year, in the near future, Illinois will no longer be the odd-man out.

“I believe people are taking another look at this because they’re thinking, ‘If all the other 49 states have this, then what’s the big deal? Why isn’t Illinois on board with this,” said Rowe.