ST. LOUIS — A federal appeals court has refused an urgent request by gun rights advocates to let Illinois residents immediately tote firearms in public under the state's fledgling concealed-carry law, though the panel has decided to give the matter a speedy review.
The Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the request last Thursday and said it expects both sides to submit written briefs by Aug. 14 regarding whether the months-long wait to implementing the law is unreasonable and illegal, as critics insist. No oral arguments on the matter had been scheduled as of Monday.
Mary Shepard and the Illinois State Rifle Association asked the Chicago appellate court to intervene after failing to sway a federal judge in East St. Louis last month to allow immediate concealed carry.
The Illinois Legislature passed the last-in-the-nation concealed-carry law July 9 against Gov. Pat Quinn's objections, giving Illinois State Police 180 days to set up the permit process and an additional 90 days to process applications. Prosecutors in a handful of Illinois counties, including Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons, have already begun allowing citizens to carry concealed firearms, provided a few requirements are met, such as possessing a regular gun permit.
Shepard and the rifle group consider the state's implementation period for the law to be "foot-dragging" and a "daily, irreparable violation of their Second Amendment rights," according to their July 30 filing to the 7th Circuit Court.
"This sort of ongoing, unabated, fully adjudicated violation of an enumerated constitutional right epitomizes irreparable harm," William Howard, an attorney for Shepard and the gun group, wrote in then in the emergency motion for an injunction.
Howard's clients have pressed that Firearm Owners Identification cards possessed by Illinois gun owners serve as concealed-carry permits "for the time being."
The state, represented by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, has not filed counterarguments with the 7th Circuit. It has until Friday.
In passing the concealed carry measure, lawmakers narrowly beat a deadline set by the 7th Circuit, 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 December decision, challenged the state's blanket prohibition on carrying a loaded firearm in public -- something the new law 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," U.S. District Judge William Stiehl wrote last month in rejecting Shepard's request.
Shepard, 73, was "savagely" beaten by an intruder in 2009 while working at her Baptist church in southern Illinois and was left for dead. She has said that had she not been barred from carrying a gun, she could have thwarted the attack.
Her latest filing with the 7th Circuit said she has an Illinois Firearm Owners Identification card, has no criminal record and has concealed-carry permits issued by Pennsylvania and Florida.