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Seventh Circuit: Illinois Gun Law Unconstitutional

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

Illinois law bars people from carrying loaded, accessible guns. There are exceptions for police and other security personnel, hunters, and members of target shooting clubs. There are more exceptions for a person on his own property or in his home. An apartment dweller can have a gun in his unit, but not in the building's common areas. Carrying an unloaded gun in public is prohibited, unless carried openly outside a vehicle in an unincorporated area without accessible ammo.

In other words, it's complicated.

Tuesday, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeal un-complicated the state's carry laws. In a 2-1 decision, the appellate court found the ban on carrying a weapon in public unconstitutional, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Parties challenging the concealed carry law argued that it violated the Second Amendment -- as interpreted in District of Columbia v. Heller, and held applicable to the states in McDonald v. City of Chicago -- but the Seventh Circuit noted that the case presented unresolved question: Does the Second Amendment create a right of self-defense outside the home?

According to the appellate court, Second Amendment rights are really about a desire for self-preservation, and that desire extends outside the home. Posner wrote:

A woman who is being stalked or has obtained a protective order against a violent ex-husband is more vulnerable to being attacked while walking to or from her home than when inside. She has a stronger self-defense claim to be allowed to carry a gun in public than the resident of a fancy apartment building (complete with doorman) has a claim to sleep with a loaded gun under her mattress. But Illinois wants to deny the former claim, while compelled by McDonald to honor the latter. That creates an arbitrary difference. To confine the right to be armed to the home is to divorce the Second Amendment from the right of self-defense described in Heller and McDonald.

In striking the state's law, Judge Posner said that Illinois had to provide the court with more than merely a rational basis for asserting that its sweeping ban was justified by an increase in public safety. The court, however, is giving the state leeway to develop a revised carry law. The Seventh Circuit stayed its ruling for 180 days to allow the Illinois legislature to craft a new gun law.

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