Concealed carry debate comes to Illinois
In the midst of the national debate sparked by the shooting rampage in Newtown Conn., Illinois now must decide how it wants to deal with the issue of its citizens carrying concealed weapons.
(This column appears in the Jan. 13, 2013 Stateline News HERE.)
Wisconsin passed concealed-carry legislation a little more than a year ago, making Illinois the last state without a concealed-carry law.
That will change in five months, after a three-judge Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel voted last month 2-1 that the Illinois ban on carrying firearms outside one’s home is unconstitutional.
The court ruled that the right to self-defense is basic, meaning people have a right to carry a gun both inside and outside of their homes.
Without action by the state legislature, Illinois residents would need only a valid Illinois Firearms Identification card to carry a concealed weapon. There would be no need for a permit or training.
The ruling was handed down two days before a gunman forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and gunned down 20 students and six staff members.
From a legislative standpoint, leaders are pushing a ban on assault weapons, and that’s also an approach that Gov. Pat Quinn would like to see on the state level.
Quinn was quoted as saying he’d like to see other “reasonable restrictions,” such as prohibiting people with a history of mental illness from having the weapons.
Others in this highly polarizing debate oppose tightening restrictions on guns, and lauded the decision in Illinois.
Many echo National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, who said at a press announcement following the Sandy Hook shootings that, “the only thing that is going to stop a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.”
There also are those, like the writers who submitted guest opinions in last Sunday’s Stateline News, urging leaders to focus on what they see as the root causes of gun violence, rather than guns themselves.
“Historically, whenever God was pushed out of a culture, the destruction of that society soon followed,” wrote Deputy Charles Sweetman, a chaplain with the Walworth County Sheriff’s office.
It’s been a little more than a year that Wisconsin residents could apply to carry a concealed weapon.
Is Wisconsin safer for it? It remains difficult to determine, which likely is what fuels the passion behind the debate.
In a story published in December in our sister publication, the Walworth County Sunday News, law enforcement officials told us the concealed-carry law isn’t perfect, but there has been little negative fallout in Walworth County during its first year.
“We have not had any issues,” Village of East Troy Police Chief Alan Boyes said. “Nothing would even appear any different with how we operate, whether the law had gone into effect or not. The most important part of this is the concealed-carry permit cards. The way I see it is that whether a person commits a crime with or without the permit, we don’t handle the situations any differently.”
On the other hand, concealed carry didn’t prevent a shooter from killing six people at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek or the shooting at the Azana Spa & Salon in Brookfield where three victims died.
Although concealed carry laws may not lead to more violence, as some predict, they may not make our communities safer, either.
The second amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteed citizens a powerful tool against an oppressive government, although the past few years have taught us that the most powerful weapon against oppression isn’t a gun, but Twitter.
And of course, the Bill of Rights enshrines free speech in the first amendment. The Founding Fathers thought of everything, didn’t they?
In any case, we’ve tackled many difficult issues throughout our country’s history.
And although this issue may be among one of the state’s thorniest, it likely is among its most important to get right.