Public housing has a reputation as a place where firearms pose a problem.
Federal court decisions affirming the constitutional right of citizens to possess firearms continue to reverberate throughout Illinois.
The U.S. Supreme Court handed down rulings in 2008 and 2010 that struck down laws in Washington, D.C., and Chicago that banned the possession of firearms. In early December, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago used those precedents to find Illinois' ban on concealed carry to be unconstitutional.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan has announced that she'll ask all the justices who preside in the 7th circuit to conduct an en banc review of that decision. But if the decision stands, Illinois legislators will have no choice but to fashion legislation that recognizes the legitimacy of concealed carry as a constitutional mandate.
The 7th circuit decision is a big one. But there are smaller spin-offs from this series of Second Amendment decisions, including a recent legal recommendation that residents of public housing in Champaign County be allowed to possess firearms.
The housing authority has long banned residents from possessing firearms. But the agency's insurers now say the ban must be lifted, obviously fearing legal liability stemming from violating the constitutional rights of residents.
At first glance, some might view the recommendation as a potential problem, and it may prove to be.
Then again, it may not, and here's why.
The housing authority is being advised that it must permit residents to possess a firearm — if they comply with the requirements of state law. That would include obtaining a Firearm Owners Identification Card, which is reviewed and approved by law enforcement authorities.
There's a big difference between people who possess firearms legally and those who do so in violation of law. Most criminal activity is committed by those who illegally possess firearms.
Urbana Police Chief Pat Connolly raised a valid point when he suggested that housing authority residents who ultimately are allowed to possess firearms be advised to store the weapons safely. Indeed, the housing authority should investigate what training and educational steps it can take to ensure their residents safely possess firearms.
There is nothing new about the illegal possession of firearms in public housing. Their legal possession by residents who take affirmative steps to comply with the law is another matter altogether, and not necessarily a threat to public safety.