Gun owners and gun-rights supporters rally at the Illinois Capitol in Springfield. (Seth Perlman / Associated…)
A federal appeals court on Tuesday struck down Illinois' ban on carrying concealed weapons, handing a significant victory to gun-rights advocates.
In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled against the Illinois law, but gave the state 180 days to craft a new piece of legislation that would deal with the court's concerns.
Illinois was the only state where carrying a concealed weapon was entirely illegal.
State and Chicago officials announced they would study the ruling before deciding on their next step.
The issue of gun rights has long been a thorny one, pitting many municipal leaders against conservative backers of the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution. Many officials argue that limiting access to guns helps decrease violent crime, while opponents of such measures contend that prohibiting concealed weapons violates constitutional guarantees.
In its ruling, the appeals panel agreed with conservatives, reversing a lower-court decision.
"The Supreme Court has decided that the amendment confers a right to bear arms for self-defense, which is as important outside the home as inside," Judge Richard Posner wrote in the court's majority opinion. "The theoretical and empirical evidence [which overall is inconclusive] is consistent with concluding that a right to carry firearms in public may promote self-defense."
Posner put the burden on the state: "Illinois had to provide us with more than merely a rational basis for believing that its uniquely sweeping ban is justified by an increase in public safety," he wrote. "It has failed to meet this burden."”
In ordering a six-month stay, the court allowed time for new legislation. In crafting any new law, however, the court noted the state had a test to meet and that the time would "allow the Illinois Legislature to craft a new gun law that will impose reasonable limitations, consistent with the public safety and the 2nd Amendment as interpreted in this opinion, on the carrying of guns in public."
Gun-rights proponents -- including the Second Amendment Foundation, which was a party to the lawsuit -- claimed a major victory.
"We are very happy with Judge Posner’s majority opinion," foundation founder and executive vice president Alan M. Gottlieb, said in a prepared statement. "This is a victory for Illinois citizens who have been long denied a right recognized in the other 49 states; to have the means necessary for self-defense outside the home.
"In the broader sense," he said, "this ruling affirms that the right to keep and bear arms, itself, extends beyond the boundary of one's front door. This is a huge victory for the Second Amendment."
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