Appeal request only way to go
Not so fast on concealed carry.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan made the only sensible decision she could when she announced that her office will appeal a recent legal decision that orders state legislators to pass a concealed carry law.
By a 2-1 decision in mid-December, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled that the state's failure to allow concealed carry violates the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The appeals court gave the General Assembly six months to pass a law authorizing concealed carry.
Madigan announced on Tuesday that she will ask all of the justices on the 7th circuit to review and reverse the decision of the three-judge panel. She said the decision "goes beyond what the U.S. Supreme Court has held and conflicts with decisions by two other appeals courts."
"Based on those decisions, it is appropriate to ask the full Seventh Circuit to review this case and consider adopting an approach that is consistent with other appellate courts that have addressed these issues after the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Heller and McDonald decisions," Madigan said.
Heller and McDonald refer to high court decisions striking down laws in Washington, D.C., and Chicago, respectively, that barred residents from owning firearms. In striking down the local laws, the court, by a 5-4 margin, ruled that Second Amendment guarantee of the right to keep and bear arms nullified laws that seek to regulate firearms by barring their possession.
The 7th Circuit, however, extended those precedents by proclaiming that the two Supreme Court rulings not only guarantee the right to possess a gun in one's home but to carry a concealed weapon in public.
In our view, Madigan has no choice but to seek further clarification of the law, whether it be before an en banc panel of the appeals court or by asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.
Illinois is the only state in the union not to allow some form of concealed carry, largely because Chicago's political power brokers vehemently oppose the practice. Ironically, Chicago, which has strict gun laws, is the murder capital of the United States, lending credence to claims that gun control laws simply do not work.
The gun issue always has been highly emotional, and it's even more so after the recent mass shooting at a grade school in Newtown, Conn.
That emotion will drive public reaction to Madigan's announcement. Gun control proponents, who abhor concealed carry, will be pleased because they hope the appeals court ruling will be struck down. At the same time, gun control opponents will be angered by Madigan's decision because they want the appeals court ruling to be left untouched.
Madigan, an ambitious pol whose name has been mentioned as a possible candidate for governor or the U.S. Senate, is extremely sensitive to public opinion on controversial issues. She cannot be happy about having to make such a controversial decision.
Regardless of how one feels about the appellate court decision, it's vital that such a significant court ruling be thoroughly vetted, if only because of its broad sweep.
It's one thing to say that the Second Amendment allows citizens to possess firearms. It's quite another to expand that interpretation to say the Second Amendment mandates the legalization of concealed carry, requiring the judicial branch of government to order the legislative branch of government to see to it.
From a legal standpoint, the Seventh Circuit's decision is new ground. It must be thoroughly plowed before it produces a concealed carry law in Illinois.