Saturday, August 06, 2011
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Fed case calling Illinois gun laws illegal gets hearing

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[August 06, 2011]  SPRINGFIELD -- A two-front push is being made in Illinois to weaken some of the most restrictive gun regulation laws in the country.

Gun-rights advocates claim that Illinois is violating the Second Amendment by prohibiting residents from being able to, in some fashion, carry a firearm in public. A hearing on one such case -- in which Michael Moore, of Champaign, and the Second Amendment Foundation Inc., a gun-rights advocacy group, are suing Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office and the state of Illinois -- was scheduled for Thursday in the U.S. District Court in Springfield.

Recent events around the nation could give gun-rights advocates the momentum they need to win a fight that has time and again seen them on the losing side.

Wisconsin passed a concealed-carry law earlier this year, leaving Illinois as the only state that prohibits nearly everyone from carrying a firearm, concealed or not, anywhere that is not their property or another person's property where they have permission

Madigan's office argues in court filings that the state is following constitutional law, because a person isn't outlawed from owning a firearm, just limited in the manner he can wield it.

A nearly identical lawsuit with nearly identical arguments is unfolding in a U.S. District Court in southern Illinois. The Illinois State Rifle Association, or ISRA, a group dedicated to furthering firearm rights and affiliated with the National Rifle Association, or NRA, is backing both cases but is a plaintiff only in the southern Illinois instance.

ISRA is joined by Mary Shepard as the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Madigan and the state of Illinois.

"We have a very strong case," said Todd Vandermyde, an NRA lobbyist. "When you look at some of the briefs that have been filed by the state and attorney general and some of the arguments they are trying to make, I think it is clear they are very, very nervous."

Vandermyde specifically pointed to an argument made by Madigan's office that since the state doesn't outlaw openly carrying a loaded gun outside of cities, towns and other incorporated parts of counties, there is not full-scale prohibition.

"The laws being challenged here are reasonable measures to ensure public safety and do not violate the constitution," said Maura Possley, a spokeswoman for Madigan.

Possley declined to comment further because the cases are ongoing.

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A recent court decision indicates how gun bans are being found to be unconstitutional. One such case happened in Chicago, where the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the city's handgun ban in a ruling that recognized a person's right to have a handgun that can be used for self-defense in the home.

In response, the Chicago City Council required people to be trained at a shooting range if they wanted to own a handgun. Then the council made shooting ranges illegal in city limits.

Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner, of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, said the court overturned the city's regulations because the court equated it to "a thumbing of the municipal nose at the Supreme Court."

Those two decisions followed a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that ended the gun ban in Washington, D.C., in 2008.

Nearly every year in recent history, some lawmakers in the General Assembly take up the case of repealing the concealed-carry ban, only to see it die for lack of support.

This spring, a concealed-carry proposal garnered a vote of 65-52 in the Illinois House. The measure didn't pass, however, because of a technicality that required it to get a "supermajority," or 71 votes, in the House to pass.

[Illinois Statehouse News; By ANDREW THOMASON]

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