An Illinois law banning guns within 1,000 feet of public parks violates a right under the Second Amendment to carry a weapon outside the home for self-defense, the state Supreme Court concluded in a unanimous decision issued on Thursday.
The 7-0 ruling came in the criminal case of Julio Chairez, who had appealed his 2013 conviction for having a gun near Aurora’s Virgil Gilman Trail park, just west of Chicago. In addition to striking the law, Thursday’s ruling also vacated Chairez’s conviction.
The 25-page opinion, penned by Chief Justice Lloyd Karmeier, says the law — in its scope — functions as “a categorical prohibition without providing an exception for law-abiding individuals.” He adds: “It is therefore a severe burden on the recognized second amendment right of self-defense.”
Thursday’s ruling is in line with other rulings over recent years by the state’s high court and the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Court of Appeals that found Illinois bans on citizens from carrying guns outside the home were unconstitutional. Such rulings have forced Illinois lawmakers who back tougher gun control laws to rethink their approach.
The Illinois attorney general’s office, whose lawyers defended the law, said Thursday it is reviewing the ruling and didn’t have an immediate comment. It could appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which Karmeier said hasn’t specifically addressed the issue of gun-free zones around public parks.
* From the opinion…
Indeed an individual can preserve an undiminished right of self-defense by not entering one of the restricted areas. But the State conceded at oral argument that the 1000-foot firearm restriction zone around a public park would effectively prohibit the possession of a firearm for self-defense within a vast majority of the acreage in the city of Chicago because there are more than 600 parks in the city… Aside from the sheer number of locations and public areas that would qualify under the law, not only in the City of Chicago, but throughout Illinois, the most troubling aspect is the lack of any notification where the 1000-foot restriction zone starts and where it would end.
Innocent behavior could swiftly be transformed into culpable conduct if an individual unknowingly crosses into a firearm restriction zone. The result could create a chilling effect on the second amendment when an otherwise law-abiding individual may inadvertently violate the 1000-foot firearm-restricted zones by just turning a street corner. Likewise, in response to a question at oral argument, the State conceded that an individual who lives within 1000 feet of a public park would violate section 24-1(a)(4), (c)(1.5) every time that individual possessed a firearm for self-defense and walked to his or her vehicle parked on a public street. To remain in compliance with the law, the State said that the individual would need to disassemble his or her firearm and place it in a case before entering the restricted zone. This requirement, however, renders the ability to defend oneself inoperable