The Illinois Supreme Court has finally joined the rest of the nation and the U.S. Supreme Court in recognizing the right of Illinois residents to exercise their Second Amendment rights.
On September 12 in Illinois v. Aguilar, the Illinois court voided a state statute that made the “aggravated unlawful use of a weapon” a felony. But the “aggravated unlawful use of a weapon” was defined so broadly that it was, for all intents and purposes, a complete ban on the concealed carry of any firearm in public.
Illinois’s law had already been found unconstitutional by a federal court in Moore v. Madigan (2012). In fact, the federal court had given the state 180 days to pass a law that allowed concealed carry, and the state implemented a new law on the final day of the deadline. Illinois was the last state in the country to drop its ban on concealed carry, but already some elected officials in Chicago “are attempting an end run around” the new state law.
Several panels of Illinois’s state appellate court had ruled that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) and McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010), which concluded that those cities’ bans on handgun possession in the home violated the Second Amendment, did not apply to the possession of a firearm outside the home. But the Illinois Supreme Court was “convinced that the Seventh Circuit’s analysis” in the Moore case that “the constitutional right of armed self-defense is broader than the right to have a gun in one’s home” was correct.
Two other federal courts of appeals (the Third and Tenth), however, have ruled the other way on the constitutionality of concealed carry laws, making it likely that the U.S. Supreme Court will eventually decide the issue.
Although he won his first argument, Alberto Aguilar, the 17-year-old defendant in the case, did not win his second argument. He had also been convicted of violating a second Illinois law that bans anyone under the age of 18 from possessing “any firearm of a size which may be concealed upon the person.”
Aguilar argued that this provision was also unconstitutional because at the time of the Second Amendment’s passage, Americans as young as 15 were required to bear arms “for purposes of militia service.” However, the Illinois court rejected that argument, claiming that laws banning juvenile possession of firearms “have been commonplace for almost 150 years.” Therefore, the “possession of handguns by minors is conduct that falls outside the scope of the second amendment’s protection.”
This may not be the end of Second Amendment litigation in Illinois. That will depend on whether Illinois authorities administer the new concealed carry law in a reasonable manner and whether elected officials in places like Chicago who are hostile to gun rights attempt to evade the intent of the statute and these court holdings.