New life is being breathed into the Second Amendment. After it was beaten down by activist courts over the decades, the nation’s top justices finally decided two years ago that the founders meant what they wrote.
In McDonald v. Chicago, the Supreme Court majority held it was unconstitutional for the Windy City to forbid residents to keep handguns in their homes. On Tuesday, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided the phrase in the Bill of Rights about “bearing arms” has meaning as well.
President Obama’s home state of Illinois is the only state with a blanket ban on carrying a handgun outside the home. The court found this prohibition was unconstitutional. As Judge Richard A. Posner wrote, “A woman who is being stalked … has a stronger self-defense claim to be allowed to carry a gun in public than the resident of a fancy apartment building (complete with doorman) has a claim to sleep with a loaded gun under her mattress.”
The judge nodded to the state’s position that a gun is a potential danger to more people in public than if only kept at home, but he added that knowing “many law-abiding citizens are walking the streets armed may make criminals timid.” When the bad guys aren’t sure whether a victim can fight back, they’re less likely to attack.
Alan Gura, attorney for the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), argued on behalf of Michael Moore, an Illinois resident who had been allowed to carry a firearm off duty as a corrections officer but was denied a permit as a civilian jail superintendent.
“Illinois’ ban on carrying a loaded firearm for self-protection is now history, and now no other state can come back and ban carry,” SAF founder Alan Gottlieb told The Washington Times in an interview Tuesday. The court gave the state legislature 180 days to craft a new gun law “with reasonable limitations” on allowing for carry rights.
Mr. Gottlieb said his organization is paying close attention to whether the lawmakers outside Chicago have enough votes to create a “shall issue” state for carry. In the unlikely event that Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn vetoes the bill, the state would default to full carry rights with no restrictions as a result of the decision. “If Illinois puts in an overly restrictive law, we’ll go back to court again,” Mr. Gottlieb warned.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) led the fight as well. Attorney Chuck Cooper argued on behalf of Mary Shepard, who is licensed to carry a concealed handgun in both Utah and Florida but not her home state of Illinois. “This ruling is a major victory for all law-abiding citizens in Illinois and indeed across the country,” said NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre. “The Shepard case has paved the way for the people of Illinois to be able to fully exercise their Second Amendment rights.”
Second Amendment activists now need to set their sights on the District, the last outpost where the right to bear arms is not recognized in any way. The D.C. Council should realize it’s only a matter of time before its carry ban is overturned. It should avoid the drawn-out legal battle by giving residents a chance to defend themselves on the mean streets of the District.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.