Updated: January 15, 2013 11:34AM
No one thinks of Illinois as an island, but that’s what the state has been for the past year — a gun-control island, by itself among all the states in prohibiting someone from carrying a concealed gun in public.
That’s going to change. A panel of federal appeals court judges decided in a 2-to-1 vote this week that Illinois’ law violates the Second Amendment right to bear arms, more specifically a citizen’s right to have a gun outside his home for self-defense. The judges directed the General Assembly to pass a concealed-carry law within 180 days.
We see merit to arguments on both sides of the gun-control issue but accept the appeals court decision in light of the inexorable trend in America in favor of concealed carry and the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling of a constitutional right to arm yourself for self-defense. When you’re the only state with such a prohibition, the handwriting is on the wall.
The court ruling was a big win for gun-rights supporters, who want the new law passed ASAP and believe it will reduce violent crime by making criminals unsure which potential victims might be packing a pistol. But it was a real downer for the gun-control folks who envision more guns on the streets leading to more shootings and sorrow.
Where to from here? First, state Attorney General Lisa Madigan must decide whether to appeal the ruling to the full appeals court and then possibly the Supreme Court. We don’t oppose an appeal but see its chances for success as slim. An appeal could delay the timetable for adopting the new law.
If and when the Legislature is required to approve a concealed-carry bill, it should adopt one similar to those in the majority of states — requiring a permit for a handgun, with strict but reasonable criteria to qualify such as fingerprinting, passing a gun training course and undergoing a background check for criminal history or mental illness.
Sooner or later, Illinois will no longer be a castaway on concealed carry. Good or bad? As other states have shown, it’s not likely to be a big deal either way.