SAF expands suit over Illinois carry ban
by Dave Workman
The Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) has expanded with additional plaintiffs a federal lawsuit challenging Illinois statutes that prohibit the carrying of a loaded handgun for personal protection.
Joining SAF is the grassroots organization Illinois Carry, along with four private citizens, Peggy Fechter of Carmi, Jon Maier, a resident of Bloomington, Michael Moore of Champaign and Charles Hooks of Percy. Named as defendants in the action are Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and State Police Superintendent Hiram Grau.
SAF and its co-plaintiffs are represented by attorneys David Jensen of New York and David Sigale of Glen Ellyn, IL. Sigale was involved in SAF’s McDonald v. City of Chicago lawsuit.
“Illinois is currently the only state in the country that imposes a complete prohibition on the carrying of firearms for personal protection by its citizens,” said SAF Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb. “The state legislature had recently stopped, by a thin margin, a concealed carry measure. After the 2008 Heller ruling and last year’s McDonald ruling against the City of Chicago that incorporated the Second Amendment to the states, one would think that Illinois lawmakers would act quickly to comply with court decisions and the constitution.”
“Illinois is the only state in the country that completely prohibits its citizens from carrying guns for self-defense,” Jensen added. “It is incredible that this situation has persisted even in light of the Supreme Court’s rulings in Heller and McDonald, and we look forward to vindicating the rights of the people of Illinois.”
SAF initially filed the lawsuit in mid-May, and had to amend the complaint three days later when it added plaintiffs. According to SAF Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb, once news of the lawsuit spread, Illinois residents started lining up to join the action.
“We were overwhelmed by requests to participate,” Gottlieb acknowledged. “We want to assure everyone who contacted us that they do not need to be actual plaintiffs in order to benefit from a victory.”
Hours after SAF filed the lawsuit in US District Court for the Central District of Illinois in Springfield, the National Rifle Association announced its own lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of Illinois.
In a prepared statement, NRA’s Chris Cox, executive director of the Institute for Legislative Action, pointed to the lead plaintiff, Mary Shepard, as a perfect example of the type of Illinois citizen who needs a gun for personal protection. Licensed to carry in two other states, Shepard is a crime victim, who was attacked, along with an 83-year-old co-worker while serving as a treasurer at her church. They were attacked and beaten by a man with a criminal record.
“Mary Shepard isn’t just a victim of the violent criminal who attacked her,” said Cox. “She is also a victim of anti-self-defense activists in the Illinois legislature who have consistently refused to recognize that good people have the right to protect themselves when they go about their everyday business. We’re pleased that the legislature has come closer this year than ever before to changing the law, but close isn’t good enough for Mary Shepard and the thousands of other Illinois residents who are prohibited by statute from defending themselves outside the home.”
NRA is joined in its lawsuit by the Illinois State Rifle Association. ISRA was a co-plaintiff with SAF in the McDonald case, and is also involved in another SAF legal action in Illinois.
Gottlieb noted that every other state has some kind of carry option.
“Even in Wisconsin,” he observed, “where there is no concealed carry statute, the state attorney general has recognized that open carry is legal. Only Illinois makes it statutorily impossible for average private citizens to carry firearms for self-defense.”
SAF’s lawsuit alleges that Illinois statutes prohibiting any kind of defensive gun carry essentially deprive the plaintiffs of civil rights under color of law. That makes these statutes “inconsistent with the Second Amendment,” the lawsuit states.
There is no small irony in SAF’s lawsuit arguments, considering that the Second Amendment was incorporated to the states by the US Supreme Court’s ruling in the McDonald case against Chicago’s handgun ban.
“Whether Illinois lawmakers like it or not,” Gottlieb added, “the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms is the law of the land. A complete prohibition simply does not pass constitutional muster. The state cannot stick its head in the sand and pretend this problem does not exist.”
About the NRA’s lawsuit, Cox noted, “In its historic Heller and McDonald decisions, the Supreme Court made clear that the Second Amendment protects a fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms. Mary Shepard’s story highlights the need for law-abiding citizens to be able to fully exercise their Second Amendment rights. Whether through the legislature or through the courts, we won’t rest until that happens.”
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