CHAMPAIGN — Mike Moore says he is proud of a career spanning more than three decades working in corrections.
But the Champaign resident's greatest legacy may be his role in helping to get Illinois' law banning the carrying of firearms in public overturned by a federal appeals court.
Moore, 62, said he received training on how to properly handle, carry and use a firearm as a young man. He got his firearms owner's identification card when Illinois first began requiring them, and he regularly takes part in target practice.
Moore was authorized to carry a gun both on-duty and off-duty during his 30 years with the Cook County Department of Corrections and during his time as a Cook County sheriff's deputy.
"I started as a corrections officer and worked my way up the ranks to become a superintendent," Moore said. "Part of my job involved disciplining criminals who didn't follow the rules."
After leaving the Cook County position, Moore moved to Champaign County, where he served as the superintendent of the county jail from April 2008 until his retirement in December 2011.
Since Moore had an administrative position in Champaign County, he was no longer legally allowed to carry a concealed gun.
"After spending more than 30 years with criminals, I found myself running into individuals who had been incarcerated from time to time," Moore said. "Some of them were people I had disciplined.
"There were quite a few instances where they had a gun and I didn't. Criminals are not going to go without their guns. Many criminals do not care about the concealed-carry law. They are going to keep their firearms.
"I felt unsafe, not only for myself, but for my family."
Moore said he disagreed with Illinois' concealed-carry ban. Illinois is the only state that does not allow concealed-carry.
In 2011, Moore contacted Alexandria, Va., attorney Alan Gura, who had successfully challenged a District of Columbia handgun ban before the U.S. Supreme Court, and returned to the high court two years later to successfully argue that the Second Amendment applies not only to the federal government, but to state and local government officials.
In May 2011, Gura filed a lawsuit against Illinois on Moore's behalf in federal court in Springfield.
"While Illinois can regulate the carrying of guns in the interest of public safety, it can't simply ban everyone in the state from carrying all guns, anywhere, all the time," Gura told The News-Gazette. "The Constitution secures people the right to carry handguns for self-defense. The state can make rules, but it can't decide that a constitutional right is a bad idea."
After U.S. District Judge Sue Myerscough ruled against Moore in February 2012 in Springfield, Moore appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
Moore said his effort had the support of several pro-gun organizations, including the Second Amendment Foundation, the Illinois State Rifle Association and the National Rifle Association.
"I have spoken with a lot of people from across the state who, like me, believe the state law was not right and could not be justified," Moore said.
Moore's case was combined with a case filed by Mary Shepard, a woman who had concealed-carry permits from Florida and Pennsylvania, but no gun when Willis Bates broke into the First Baptist Church in Anna, Ill., and brutally beat her and another woman in 2009. She suffered four skull fractures, multiple fractures of her face, shattered teeth, a concussion, crushed vertebrae, two torn rotator cuffs, and a mangled arm.
Bates is serving a 23-year sentence at Pinckneyville Correctional Center after he was convicted of attempted murder.
Shepard went to court to fight Illinois' concealed-carry law.
"Carrying a firearm in public to protect myself would make me a criminal in my home state of Illinois," Shepard said in a court document. "But for the Illinois ban on carrying a firearm for self-defense, I would have been armed that day and capable of defending myself against a hulking brute twice my size."
After U.S. District Judge William Stiehl ruled against Shepard, she, too, appealed.
In December, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1 in favor of Moore and Shepard.
The majority opinion, by Judge Richard A. Posner of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, found the ban on concealed weapons was unconstitutional under a 2008 Supreme Court decision that overturned a sweeping handgun ban that had been enacted by the District of Columbia.
Posner wrote that the Supreme Court's 2008 decision established a constitutional right to armed self-defense under the Second Amendment.
"A right to bear arms thus implies a right to carry a loaded gun outside the home," Posner wrote.
Posner's position was supported by Judge Joel Flaum. Judge Ann Claire Williams dissented.
"Twenty-first century Illinois has no hostile Indians," Posner wrote. "But a Chicagoan is a good deal more likely to be attacked on a sidewalk in a rough neighborhood than in his apartment on the 35th floor of the Park Tower."
Moore was on a cruise to the Bahamas when the appeals court decision was announced.
"I received an email from Alan Gura telling me that we won the appeal," Moore said. "I was so excited I almost felt like jumping off the boat and swimming back. It was a great feeling."
The decision means the state has to allow ordinary citizens to carry weapons, but it also specified a 180-day delay before it becomes binding, giving lawmakers time to put into place a law regulating weapons.
And earlier this month, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a petition asking the full Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to review the decision.
"In ruling that Illinois must allow individuals to carry ready-to-use firearms in public, the Seventh Circuit Court's decision goes beyond what the U.S. Supreme Court has held and conflicts with decisions by two other federal appellate courts," Madigan said in a written statement.
"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 the other appellate courts that have addressed these issues."
Moore said he believes that people who get concealed-carry permits in Illinois should complete gun safety training before they receive those permits.
"I am a firm believer in requiring individuals to have safety training to understand the proper use and proper handling of a firearm," Moore said. "I don't think that is unreasonable."
Moore said he taught his four children about firearms when they were growing up so they would be comfortable using them if necessary.
"When my five grandchildren are old enough, I intend to make sure they also have exposure to gun safety and the proper handling of a gun," he said.
Moore said he has heard from gun supporters who praise his efforts to get the state law overturned.
"Recently I was at a gun range in the Chicago area," Moore said. "I saw a few people who knew me from being involved in the suit, and they were very happy that the suit was decided in our favor."
Moore said he believes the court decision will ultimately make Illinois safer.
"Illinois will be a safer place because it will make the criminals wonder if the person they approach has been authorized to carry a gun and has undergone training," Moore said. "It is my hope the crime rate will go down in Illinois as a result of this."