I was one of those who thought it would be years, if ever, before Illinois citizens would be able to carry concealed weapons. The current equilibrium in the state legislature, where Downstaters deny Chicago an assault weapons ban while those from the state's largest city return the favor on concealed carry, was just too convenient for both sides.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has tossed a big surprise into that punchbowl, ruling that Illinois' standing as the only state to forbid any form of concealed carry violates the Second Amendment. "Illinois had to provide us with more than merely a rational basis for believing that its uniquely sweeping ban is justified by an increase in public safety. It has failed to meet this burden," the court said.
At times the court seemed to be holding its nose a bit, but clearly cited the Heller and McDonald decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"We are disinclined to engage in another round of historical analysis to determine whether eighteenth-century America understood the Second Amendment to include a right to bear guns outside the home. The Supreme Court has decided that the amendment confers a right to bear arms for self-defense, which is as important outside the home as inside."
The court gave the state 180 days to craft a concealed carry system passing constitutional muster. What that crafting might yield can be inferred from the confusing remarks of House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie:
"If we need to change the law, let us at least craft a law that is very severely constrained and narrowly tailored so that we don't invite guns out of control on each of our city's streets," Currie said. "I don't want people out of control wandering the streets with guns that are out of control."
Cynics will notice the three uses of the phrase "out of control" in 56 words and wonder just what level of control is operational in Chicago, which is having a record run of shootings.
Downstate concealed carry advocates were jubilant and uncompromising in their reaction to the unexpected breadth of the ruling. They have had agonizing negotiations with upstate politicos over very piecemeal improvements in Illinois carry regulations, and now plan to take a firm line with chastened Chicago legislators, who have had first to swallow the McDonald decision and now this one. Rules that would have happily been accepted a month ago are likely to be spurned this time.
Not everyone in Chicago was disappointed. Ald. Howard Brookins, chairman of the City Council black caucus, told the Tribune "I think (law-abiding citizens) have a gun now, they've just been made criminals because they can't legally have it." And I think the gangbangers and thugs are going to have a gun regardless."
In light of the Donne Trotter arrest (see below), he might have added that Chicago politicians are also going to have a gun regardless. All that's changing now is that their constituents will have a chance to be protected in the same fashion.