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Court ruling on Ill. gun ban sets stage for fight

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CHICAGO – Backers of Illinois’ ban on concealed weapons vowed Wednesday to fight for continued controls on gun possession, a day after a federal appeals court struck down the nation’s last such prohibition as unconstitutional and ordered the state to craft a law allowing it.

Chicago aldermen joined gun rights advocates in urging state Attorney General Lisa Madigan to appeal the ruling from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Gov. Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said they would work with legislators to come up with a new law that would be sure to protect the public.

“I think it’s important that we stress that public safety comes first,” said Quinn, an ardent supporter of gun control, adding that people with a history of mental illness who are involved in domestic violence should not be able to carry weapons. “I think that’s where the people of Illinois are on this issue and anything having to do with guns and assault weapons and things like that. We cannot have those sorts of people eligible to carry loaded weapons on their person in public places, whether it be malls or churches or schools.”

Quinn also said he will push for a ban on military-style assault weapons.

The ban’s defenders said they expect a battle in the Legislature over the next six months as the state seeks to comply with the court order to craft a new law within 180 days. They noted that a number of states that allow concealed carry – such as Wisconsin, which approved it last year – still restrict where citizens can carry weapons.

“I expect a battle,” said House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, a longtime gun control advocate.

Gun rights advocates, who long have argued that the Illinois ban violates the Second Amendment, celebrated the ruling as a major victory in their campaign to make Illinois the center of the national debate over gun control after Wisconsin tossed out its ban on concealed carry last year.

The gun rights backers interpreted the 2-1 appellate court ruling as a mandate instructing lawmakers to pass a bill allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons in public with few if any restrictions. Todd Vandermyde, a National Rifle Association lobbyist, said gun control advocates could forget any limits such as partial bans near places such as day care centers and schools.

Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, said lawmakers could quickly pass an existing concealed-carry bill when they reconvene the first week of January.

The bill, he said, “contains all the things – background checks, classroom time – that all the parties wanted, so it’s ready to go.”

“We bent over backwards before and tried to accommodate everybody, and they just threw it in the garbage,” Pearson said. “Maybe we won’t be so accommodating now.”

As Chicago grapples with a spike in its murders and shootings this year, several members of the City Council said Wednesday they hope Madigan will appeal the ruling. However, that may be a long shot given the Supreme Court’s recent rulings, which includes striking down Chicago’s handgun ban. Madigan’s office said she was reviewing the decision.

The aldermen also noted that the city has the authority to ban or restrict concealed weapons on its own. But Alderman Howard Brookins disagreed with that approach, saying the court’s decision means law-abiding citizens “who jump through the hoops” to secure the proper gun permits will be able to better protect themselves.

Judge Richard Posner wrote in the majority appellate opinion that Illinois doesn’t have “some unique characteristic of criminal activity” that provides an excuse for not joining the rest of the nation when it comes to concealed weapons.

But the majority included the 180-day stay of its ruling to “allow the Illinois legislature to craft a new gun law that will impose reasonable limitations, consistent with the public safety and the Second Amendment as interpreted in this opinion, on the carrying of guns in public,” Posner wrote. The fight in the Legislature would be over what constitutes “reasonable limitations.”

Gun control advocates say that other states have a range of criteria for allowing concealed carry. Four states – Alaska, Arizona, Vermont and Wyoming – require no permit for concealed carry.

By contrast, a number of other states – including New York and California – give law enforcement officials discretion in issuing permits and require applicants to demonstrate good cause for carrying, according to Brian Malte of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

In Illinois, the existing legislative proposal requires specific training for applicants, but the sponsors could choose to leave that out, Pearson said. Another possibility, he said, is requiring training from any NRA instructor, as some states require. “You get certified and you’re out the door,” he said.

There also is likely to be debate over where concealed weapons can be carried. For example, Wisconsin decided that gun permit holders cannot carry weapons in schools, police stations or courtrooms but can carry weapons into taverns if they aren’t drinking alcohol. Private property owners can ban weapons in their buildings if they see fit.

Some gun control advocates believe their best chance is with the Supreme Court, despite recent rulings – including one overturning Chicago’s handgun ban – that found citizens have a Second Amendment right to have a gun for self-defense in their homes.

Flynn Currie said she is encouraged by the court’s silence on the right to carry concealed weapons and wants Madigan to appeal the ruling.

The Supreme Court’s rulings on the Second Amendment were “very limited, saying the home is your castle, and it didn’t apply to other places,” she said. “For that reason, it’s worth checking on that question.”

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