Illinois has the worst gun laws of any state. Only police officers and the taxpayer-funded bodyguards for ex-Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley have the right to carry a handgun outside their homes. Everyone else is out of luck - unless a pair of federal lawsuits filed last week succeed in arguing that the Second Amendment right to "keep and bear Arms" means that people can actually bear arms in the land of Lincoln.
Last year, the Supreme Court struck down Chicago's ban on private handgun ownership, upholding the "keeping" of arms. The National Rifle Association (NRA) and Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) are looking to build on that victory by overturning the country's most sweeping anti-carry statute to ensure the "bearing" of arms is equally protected.
The NRA-funded suit champions the cause of church treasurer Mary E. Shepard, 71, the victim of a brutal 2009 beating at the hands of a thug with a long criminal record. Under Illinois law, Mrs. Shepard would face felony charges were she to carry a handgun to prevent such an attack in the future. Mrs. Shepard can protect herself in Florida and Pennsylvania, where she has received concealed-carry permits, but she is denied the same right in her home state of Illinois. The SAF suit was filed on behalf of Michael Moore, 60. Earlier in his career, Mr. Moore was a deputy sheriff and could legally carry firearms while off-duty. As the current superintendent of the Champaign County Jail, Mr. Moore can no longer do so.
Both cases make essentially the same argument: No state may completely prohibit the bearing of arms as Illinois has done. The Founding Fathers did not want America to be like the European nations where "the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms," as James Madison explained in Federalist No. 46. Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter of advice to Peter Carr, the 15-year-old son of a family friend: "Let your gun therefore be the constant companion of your walks. Never think of taking a book with you." Jailing those who follow Jefferson's timeless advice only ensures that criminals are the only ones with guns on their person.
That's why states with generous concealed-carry provisions are safe places to be. The wild-west shootouts that the gun grabbers predicted have never materialized. In the 23 years since Florida began allowing concealed carry, 1,976,774 permits have been issued. A mere 0.008 percent of permit holders have been nabbed for using a gun in the commission of a crime. As gun ownership soars to an all-time high, the crime rate continues to plunge.
On Monday, the National Shooting Sports Foundation reported that one out of three individuals who own AR-15-style rifles bought them after President Obama's inauguration out of a fear that the so-called assault-weapons ban would return. So despite a surge in ownership of the weapons most dreaded by the left, we're still safer than ever as a nation. The phony anti-gun arguments of Illinois and the District of Columbia no longer hold up. It's time for them to respect the Constitution.
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