On Tuesday a federal appellate court in Chicago held that Illinois’ absolute ban on concealed handguns outside of the home was unconstitutional and gave the state 180 days to write a new concealed carry law.
Gun rights groups should be pleased with Seventh Circuit Judge Richard Posner’s blunt finding that the inconclusive, empirical literature on the effects of permitting concealed guns, which he documents and describes, fails to justify Illinois’ absolute ban.
Posner concluded, “The Supreme Court has decided that the [Second] amendment confers a right to bear arms for self-defense, which is as important outside the home as inside.”
The decision was built upon the 2008 Supreme Court ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, which held that a total ban of handguns in the home is unconstitutional.
Although the ruling is a major win for the gun lobby, the holding is unlikely to have far-reaching effects because Illinois is the only state in the country to have an absolute ban on concealed handguns.
Almost every state issues concealed carry permits if citizens meet certain requirements, although a few states retain some discretion to issue permits only to citizens who can prove a need to carry a gun. Four states, including liberal Vermont, allow citizens to carry a concealed handgun without a permit.
The federal court’s decision in Illinois did not address the constitutionality of various restrictions on the carrying of concealed guns at “sensitive” places such as schools, airports, churches nor did it address any particular concealed carry permitting requirement.
However, in recent years state legislators have been pushing to permit concealed guns in places where they have been prohibited in the past, which may potentially lead to high-profile litigation on area-specific prohibitions in the future. For example, in 2012, 16 states introduced legislation to allow concealed carry on public college campuses. Five states – Colorado, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah, and Wisconsin – all currently permit the carrying of concealed weapons on public college campuses due to recent legislation and court rulings.
As states continue to become less restrictive in their concealed carry laws (just two decades ago most states did not permit concealed weapons), it becomes more and more obvious that allowing citizens to carry guns does not have the negative societal consequences often predicted by the Left. For example, Washington D.C., which overturned its gun ban in 2008, is on pace to record the fewest homicides in the District since 1963.
The increased national acceptance of guns by Americans means that the court simply confirmed what most Americans already knew: the right to “keep and bear arms” can’t stop at a citizen’s front door.