EAST ST. LOUIS — A federal judge has rejected a push by gun rights advocates to let Illinois residents immediately tote firearms in public instead of waiting months for the state to outline the permitting process under its new concealed carry law.
U.S. District Judge William Stiehl on Friday threw out the lawsuit filed in East St. Louis by Mary Shepard and the Illinois State Rifle Association, siding with Illinois in ruling the suit moot.
Under the last-in-the-nation concealed carry law, passed by the General Assembly July 9 against Gov. Pat Quinn's vehement objections, Illinois State Police have 180 days to set up a program before accepting applications, plus an additional 90 days to process the forms.
Some county prosecutors, including Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons, are already allowing people to carry concealed weapons, provided certain restrictions are met, such as having a regular gun permit.
Shepard, in court filings, said a delay in the statewide implementation of the concealed-carry law is unreasonable and insisted it "constitutes an unacceptable perpetuation of the defendants' infringement of the Second Amendment rights." While noting she wasn't challenging elements of the new permitting process, Shepard said her issue was over "the complete ban on carrying firearms that continues to exist until the permitting process is up and running."
But Stiehl's 10-page ruling concurred with the position of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office: Challenging the legality of the span state police have to set up the program would require Shepard and the state rifle group to file a new complaint spelling out why such a wait is onerous or illegal.
It was not immediately clear Monday whether Shepard or the rifle association planned to pursue the matter further. Messages left with one of their attorneys, William Howard, were not immediately returned. A message seeking comment also was left with Todd Vandemyde, a National Rifle Association lobbyist in Illinois.
Madigan spokeswoman Maura Possley told The Associated Press that office may have a public response to Stiehl's ruling later Monday.
In passing the concealed carry measure, lawmakers narrowly beat a deadline set by the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which last December ruled the state's ban on public possession of handguns unconstitutional.
Madigan's office had argued that Shepard's lawsuit, which first helped bring about the 7th Circuit's decision, challenged the state's blanket prohibition on carrying a loaded firearm on public -- something the new law now allows.
"The fact that this time period for establishing the permitting process is specified in the statute does not mean that it actually will take that amount of time for the state police to complete the process," Stiehl wrote.
Shepard, of Cobden in southern Illinois, was 69 years old in 2009 when she was beaten by an intruder and left for dead. She has said that had she not been barred from carrying a gun, she could have thwarted the attack.