Anyone who thought that the state's adoption of a concealed carry law would settle the issue has another think coming.
Recent passage of the state's concealed carry law not only hasn't ended litigation on the subject, but also it's spawned a new set of complaints about the state's decision to continue to bar citizens from arming themselves now.
U.S. Judge William Stiehl dismissed a National Rifle Association lawsuit last week that sought court approval for citizens to carry a concealed weapon now rather than wait another nine months to do so, as specified by the legislation passed May 31 by the Illinois General Assembly.
Adopting an argument presented by Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office, Stiehl ruled that the Legislature action's made the issue of immediate possession "moot." The NRA's lawyer challenged that contention, wondering how the concealed carry question could be moot when law enforcement officers can and will arrest those carrying concealed weapons.
The basic dispute is over timing. Concealed carry proponents want to arm themselves now, as opposed to waiting for the implementation period established by state law to run its course.
The law outlined a nine-month delay — 180 days to make applications forms available and another 90 days to process the applications, prompting NRA lawyer William Howard to argue that "violations of plaintiff's rights will not cease for another 270 days."
Madigan's office contended that concealed carry legislation passed in response to the NRA's initial lawsuit "removes the total prohibition on carrying loaded handguns for self-defense that plaintiffs had challenged" and argued that a challenge to the new law required "a new complaint."
The NRA is appealing Stiehl's decision to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, the same court that in December struck down Illinois' ban on concealed carry as a violation of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
This maneuvering may come across as so much unfathomable legal mumbo jumbo to laymen. But if, as the federal appeals court ruled, citizens' rights were violated when they were denied the right to concealed carry, there is no doubt that their rights continue to be violated while the new law's implementation period runs its course.
The question is: what's to be done about it, if anything? Concealed carry opponents have zero sympathy for the proponents' arguments, but there is an issue here they might better understand if the subject was different.
Suppose it was abortion that had been illegal in Illinois, that the law banning abortion was struck down as unconstitutional and that the Legislature was required to pass a new law establishing a legal right to this controversial procedure. Suppose further that legislators, most of whom adamantly oppose abortion, decreed that no woman would be able to obtain an abortion until nine months after the law legalizing abortion was passed. Would a woman seeking to exercise her legal right to abortion have a meritorious claim if she argued she should be able to exercise her rights now, when it matters, not nine months from now, when it wouldn't?
That's the issue that concealed carry proponents are raising, so far at least without success.
It's understandable that the state needs time to implement the bureaucratic licensing process. It's also undeniable that the state — legislators, Gov. Quinn, state police bureaucrats — is dragging its feet in terms of compliance. The federal appeals court gave the Legislature six months to write a new concealed carry law, and legislators waited until the last minute to do so. Now the state police have been given six months to prepare a concealed carry application and another three months to act on applications that are submitted — bureaucratic foot-dragging at its best.
Concealed carry proponents have a reason to complain. Whether they have grounds to file a persuasive legal complaint is entirely another matter.