Federal Appeals Court Strikes Illinois Ban On Carrying Loaded Guns Outside The Home

A divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit struck down an Illinois law yesterday which prohibited most people from carrying loaded weapons outside of the home. The law prohibits most individuals from carrying a “loaded, immediately accessible — that is, easy to reach — and uncased” firearm, with exceptions for “police and other security personnel, hunters, and members of target shooting clubs.” The law also contained broad exemptions allowing someone to carry a firearm on their own property or in their own home, the later of which is required under the the Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller.

Heller established a robust right to gun possession within the confines of the home, while also permitting a wide range of firearm regulation beyond the home’s four walls. Although the Seventh Circuit’s decision deemed the fairly broad Illinois law to exceed this wide range, it also makes clear that lawmakers retain a great deal of authority over firearms:

[W]hen a state bans guns merely in particular places, such as public schools, a person can preserve an undiminished right of self-defense by not entering those places; since that’s a lesser burden, the state doesn’t need to prove so strong a need. Similarly, the state can prevail with less evidence when, as in Skoien, guns are forbidden to a class of persons who present a higher than average risk of misusing a gun. And empirical evidence of a public safety concern can be dispensed with altogether when the ban is limited to obviously dangerous persons such as felons and the mentally ill. Illinois has lots of options for protecting its people from being shot without having to eliminate all possibility of armed self-defense in public. . . .

Apart from the usual prohibitions of gun ownership by children, felons, illegal aliens, lunatics, and in sensitive places such as public schools, the propriety of which was not questioned in Heller (“nothing in this opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings”), some states sensibly require that an applicant for a handgun permit establish his competence in handling firearms. A person who carries a gun in public but is not well trained in the use of firearms is a menace to himself and others. States also permit private businesses and other private institutions (such as churches) to ban guns from their premises. If enough private institutions decided to do that, the right to carry a gun in public would have much less value and might rarely be exercised — in which event the invalidation of the Illinois law might have little effect, which opponents of gun rights would welcome.


The court concluded its opinion by staying its own decision for 180 days, “to allow the Illinois legislature to craft a new gun law that will impose reasonable limitations, consistent with the public safety and the Second Amendment as interpreted in this opinion, on the carrying of guns in public.”