Concealed carry not if, but when
Legislators are running out of time to meet a court order to pass a concealed-carry bill.
The ongoing fight over concealed-carry legislation in Springfield might look, at first blush, like a case of the irresistible force against the immovable object.
Pro-concealed carry legislators obviously believe that this is an idea whose time has come because it has worked well into other states. A December federal appeals court ruling that held Illinois' ban on concealed carry unconstitutional certainly supports their point.
Anti-gun legislators hate the court ruling and they hate the idea of concealed carry. That's why they keeping coming up with provisions that would, theoretically at least, legalize concealed carry but, at the same time, allow the state to deny citizen requests to carry.
At various times during the current debate, legislators have proposed that an individual must be deemed to possess "good moral character" before being allowed to carry a weapon or show "good cause" for making the request. Those are in addition to passing the mandatory background check for a firearm owner's identification card.
There have even been proposals that whatever legislation the state passes allow individual counties or communities the option of passing even more restrictive measures, including a ban.
That last idea — if one thinks about it — is an absolute nonstarter. The appellate court didn't say that only citizens in certain counties in Illinois have a right to concealed carry; it said all the citizens of Illinois.
These proposed restrictions aren't fooling anyone — indeed, state Sen. Kwame Raoul, the Chicago Democrat who's overseeing the bill-drafting process, has made it clear that he vehemently opposes concealed carry and wouldn't be doing what he's doing absent the federal court decision.
But Raoul and many of his like-minded legislators have a problem. The appeals court gave legislators six months to pass a concealed carry bill that includes reasonable restrictions. If the Legislature fails to act, the current June 9 deadline for legislative action ends and citizens' rights to concealed carry begins.
There would be no restrictions except those that law enforcement agencies adopt on the fly, and they would be of questionable legality in the absence of statutory guidance.So this isn't really a case of whether the Legislature passes concealed carry but what the rules will be on June 9, assuming there are any rules at all. It's infinitely better to have reasonable rules.
We've made no secret of our preference that Attorney General Lisa Madigan ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the appellate court decision.
The appeals court's ruling cries out for clarification by the nation's highest court. That's because the appellate court's ruling is not as one-sided as gun backers might like to think. The vote to extend the right to possession outside the home was 2-1, and that ruling was an extension of two 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decisions involving ordinances in Chicago and Washington, D.C., that upheld a citizen's right to possess a firearm in his residence.
Madigan, however, has yet to decide whether to seek high court review. She asked for and received a 30-day extension on whether to file a notice of appeal, and she's waiting to see what the Legislature does.
Some legal observers who oppose concealed carry have urged her not to appeal because Illinois' current outright ban on concealed carry is perceived to be harder to defend. That may be true. But defending the breadth of the appeals court ruling — mandating concealed carry — is no slam dunk.
What would be best, of course, is if the Legislature acts responsibly and passes real concealed carry legislation.
Forty-nine states have some form of concealed carry, and the world has not come to an end. Some states even report declines in criminal activity.
Whether the Legislature will or not is subject to speculation. But concealed carry is coming to Illinois, with or without rules, in less than a month.