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Supremes strike down state gun ban near public parks

Friday, Feb 2, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* AP

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

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10 Comments
  1. - Anonymous - Friday, Feb 2, 18 @ 3:02 pm:

    Makes sense. Each item in the Bill of Rights should be subject to heightened scrutiny. Ultimately, the government could not show that putting an imaginary line around a location stops bad people from doing bad things.


  2. - Skeptic - Friday, Feb 2, 18 @ 3:14 pm:

    I’m as anti-gun as there is, but 1000 ft. seems like kind of a large area.


  3. - Been There - Friday, Feb 2, 18 @ 3:17 pm:

    I am a believer in some gun regulation but this law was a stupid overreach. I can understand saying you can’t bring a gun to a park (even though that in itself is probably an overreach itself) but a thousand feet is ridiculous. Some people can’t even leave their house let alone drive down the street. You could be in violation without even knowing there was a park within that distance.


  4. - Rod - Friday, Feb 2, 18 @ 3:29 pm:

    I am a State Rifle Association member so you can figure I am very supportive of the ruling. But I would urge AG Madigan to appeal to the US Supreme Court was this ruling can have national impact. My bet is Bloomberg crew is asking her not to appeal.


  5. - RNUG - Friday, Feb 2, 18 @ 3:34 pm:

    This only overturned the restriction within 1,000 feet of a public park (court restricted itself to the specific question). But, given the language in the decision, it is highly likely the other restricted locations (school, etc.) would likely also be overturned if there was such a case in front of the court.

    There needs to be some more clarity to this law. In my situation, it is legal (when properly licensed) to have a uncased or loaded firearm on my property, but the minute I get in my car and pull out on the street, I am breaking the law since I live within 1,000 feet of a school. But once I get a block or so down the road (assuming I’m heading away from the school) I am once again legal.

    If the law trusts me to own a firearm on my own property near a school, then the law should also trust me if I step in the street or alley next to my house; nothing changed except my physical location by a few feet.


  6. - Anonymous - Friday, Feb 2, 18 @ 3:37 pm:

    I witnessed a shoot-out in a public park. Hundreds of people ducked for cover. This was awful. Guns are a plague, yet we need to remember that almost all gun crime is committed by illegal guns. Regulations on licensed conceal carried people doesn’t help to reduce our gun crime.


  7. - Mason born - Friday, Feb 2, 18 @ 4:02 pm:

    Rnug,

    Question, why would you need a permit for your own property? Should just be a FOID card.


  8. - JS Mill - Friday, Feb 2, 18 @ 4:44 pm:

    @RNUG- maybe I am wrong it I don’t think schools have the 1000ft protection. There was a policy (from school policy service) that prohibited guns in cars on school property but only via policy. So I am thinking that prohibition is guns in school buildings?

    I have my CCL and I am glad that the court struck that down. There are many places that guns don’t belong but this law was absurd.


  9. - Carl from Chicago - Friday, Feb 2, 18 @ 4:47 pm:

    A “FOID” card IS itself a permit.


  10. - Anonymous - Monday, Feb 5, 18 @ 11:08 pm:

    From the linked SJ-R article: “The executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, Richard A. Pearson, welcomed Thursday’s ruling.”
    “If you make all these 1000-foot restrictive zones, then chain them together, there’s no place you can go with a firearm,” he said. “They’re always unconstitutional.”

    Richard Pearson, ISRA executive director-for-life speaks to the base from his insurance office at Chatsworth World Headquarters. Please. This is the guy who was hand in hand with Rep. Brandon Phelps, senate sponsor Gary Forby and NRA lobbyist Todd Vandermyde placing a public transit ban in Phelps 2013 concealed carry bill, but now he cares about black and brown people in Chicago? Right.

    Did ISRA fund this lawsuit? I doubt it, the good old boys who send Pearson money drive their monster trucks everywhere. Pearson, ISRA & NRA haven’t moved an inch to improve Phelps crummy carry bill or IL gun laws any better. Probably for the best, all they know how to do is lose anyway.


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