MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Ban on Guns Near Parks Violates the Second Amendment, Illinois Supreme Court Says

The state's 1,000-foot rule made accidental felons out of people carrying firearms for self-defense.

Cabela'sCabela'sYesterday the Illinois Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a state ban on carrying guns within 1,000 feet of a public park violates the constitutional right to bear arms. The decision in People v. Chairez extends the logic of prior rulings by the same court and by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit holding that Second Amendment rights exist outside the home and cannot be categorically restricted without a strong justification.

In 2013 Julio Chairez committed a Class 3 felony, punishable by two to five years in prison, when he carried a gun in the general vicinity of Virgil Gilman Trail, a park in Aurora, a Chicago suburb. Chairez pleaded guilty but subsequently challenged the constitutionality of the law he violated, which also prohibits guns within 1,000 feet of a school, a courthouse, a public transportation facility, or public housing. In practice, Chairez argued, those exclusion zones were tantamount to a blanket ban on carrying guns in public, which the 7th Circuit overturned in 2012. A Kane County circuit judge agreed, finding the law unconstitutional on its face.

The Illinois Supreme Court, in an opinion written by Chief Justice Lloyd Karmeier, says the circuit court decision improperly covered provisions that did not apply to Chairez and should have focused on the gun-free zone around parks. That rule is highly restrictive on its own, Karmeier notes. It covers "a vast majority of the acreage in the city of Chicago," for example, "because there are more than 600 parks in the city."

Even in areas with fewer parks, the rule made it legally perilous to carry a gun for self-defense. "The most troubling aspect is the lack of any notification where the 1000-foot restriction zone starts and where it would end," Karmeier writes. "Innocent behavior could swiftly be transformed into culpable conduct if an individual unknowingly crosses into a firearm restriction zone. The result could create a chilling effect on the second amendment when an otherwise law-abiding individual may inadvertently violate the 1000-foot firearm-restricted zones by just turning a street corner."

The only way for a someone with a gun to avoid such inadvertent felonies would be to keep the weapon disabled, inaccessible, or unloaded and locked in a case, meaning it would be unavailable for self-defense. "The State conceded that an individual who lives within 1000 feet of a public park would violate [the law] every time that individual possessed a firearm for self-defense and walked to his or her vehicle parked on a public street," Karmeier notes. "To remain in compliance with the law, the State said that the individual would need to disassemble his or her firearm and place it in a case before entering the restricted zone."

The state argued that the 1,000-foot rule falls into the category of "laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings," which the U.S. Supreme Court has indicated are consistent with the Second Amendment. But the Court did not mention parks, and it said nothing about the areas around "sensitive places." The farther a gun ban extends, the bigger the impact on armed self-defense and the weaker the security rationale.

"The law at issue affects the gun rights of the entire law-abiding population of Illinois," Karmeier notes. "It is therefore a severe burden on the recognized second amendment right of self-defense." According to the 7th Circuit, such a burden is constitutional only if the state has "an extremely strong public-interest justification" and demonstrates "a close fit between the government's means and its end." In this case, the state did not even come close.

"The State provides no evidentiary support for its claims that prohibiting firearms within 1000 feet of a public park would reduce the risks it identifies," Karmeier writes. "We see no direct correlation between the information the State provides and its assertion that a 1000-foot firearm ban around a public park protects children, as well as other vulnerable persons, from firearm violence. The State merely speculates that the proximity of firearms within 1000 feet threatens the health and safety of those in the public park."

The principle that mere speculation does not suffice to justify abridgment of a constitutional right might seem self-evident. But other courts do not seem to agree, since they have upheld arbitrary restrictions on the right to carry arms in public and bans on wildly popular categories of firearms based on about as much evidence as Illinois offered in defense of the law that tripped up Julio Chairez.

A decade ago, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to arms, which it said includes the right to keep usable guns in the home for self-defense. Since then the Court has said nothing to clarify whether that right extends beyond the home or how strong a reason the government needs to restrict it. If Illinois appeals this decision, the Court will have yet another opportunity to weigh in on those crucial questions.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    The lefties are losing control of Illinois too.

    Holy crap lefties- commence your pants shitting.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Let's not get ahead of ourselves.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    So, relax your bowels a little?

  • timbo||

    Shame on Illinois for electing these morons. How much taxpayer money was wasted on the people costs in the capital to come up with this?

    politicians are the root of all strife

  • Billy Bones||

    And in a state whose major metropolitan city has a dozen or more murders per week all committed with illegally owned firearms, they believe it is most prudent to fuck with legal gun owners who are only trying to do what their government is incapable of: protecting themselves from these illegal gun-owning murders.

  • timbo||

    They should hold as special session of congress to ban all crime and violence. That will solve it.

    This is how stupid they know their citizenry to be.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    The intent of the IL legislature is pretty obvious: "those exclusion zones were tantamount to a blanket ban on carrying guns in public." And no one is made a felon by "accident."

  • DaveSs||

    An attempt at clarifying this case for those who don't understand Illinois.

    There are two statutes to keep in mind here
    Unlawful Use of Weapon (UUW),
    and an upgraded charge of violating UUW in a specific place (in this case within 1000ft of a park)

    The UUW statute in Illinois prohibits possessing an uncased and/or loaded firearm basically everywhere outside your own home or land, not just within 1000ft of a school/park/whatever.

    However it also has some exceptions to allow for what they called transporting firearms:
    The firearm had to be unloaded, in a case, and you had to have a FOID card.

    If you did those three things you satisfied the exceptions for both UUW and by extension, UUW in a specific place.
    Now that concealed carry is allowed in Illinois, there are also exceptions to both statutes for persons with a CCW permit.

    Presumably the defendant was packing a loaded handgun, so even though his conviction for UUW in a specific place was vacated, the defendant still could be accused of UUW. It would just be a Class A misdemeanor.

  • DaveSs||

    Or to simplify even further:

    Illinois had (and still has) a blanket ban on possessing and carrying a firearm outside the house.
    They have created a limited handful of exceptions to the blank ban

    a) Unloaded, cased, with a FOID....this was in place at the time of the alleged offense.
    b) With a CCW Permit which removes the requirement that it also be unloaded and/or cased...This one is in new since 2013

    Violate the ban while not complying with the limited exceptions, you get UUW Class A misdemeanor
    Violate the ban while not complying with the limited exceptions and in a specifically named place, you get UUW Class 3 Felony.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...the circuit court decision improperly covered provisions that did not apply to Chairez and should have focused on the gun-free zone around parks.

    Heaven forbid we restrict the government from banning things without first stuffing the pockets of several different attorneys.

  • Rebel Scum||

    Ban on Guns Near Parks Violates the Second Amendment

  • ranrod||

    Marxists and Islamists who infect our government plus the media prostitutes who protect them will gleefully lie, falsify, fabricate, slander, libel, deceive, delude, bribe, and treasonably betray the free citizens of the United States into becoming an unarmed population. Unarmed populations have been treated as slaves and chattel since the dawn of history.
    The Second Amendment foes lying about gun control - Firearms are our constitutionally mandated safeguard against tyranny by a powerful federal government.

    Only dictators, tyrants, despots, totalitarians, and those who want to control and ultimately to enslave you support gun control.

    No matter what any president, senator, congressman, or mainstream media hooker tells you concerning the statist utopian fantasy of safety and security through further gun control: They are lying. If their lips are moving, they are lying about gun control. These despots truly hate America..

  • ranrod||

    These tyrants hate freedom, liberty, personal responsibility, and private property. But the reality is that our citizens' ownership of firearms serves as a concrete deterrent against despotism. They are demanding to hold the absolute power of life and death over you and your family. Ask the six million Jews, and the other five million murdered martyrs who perished in the Nazi death camps, how being disarmed by a powerful tyranny ended any chances of fighting back. Ask the murdered martyrs of the Warsaw Ghetto about gun control.

    Their single agenda is to control you after you are disarmed. When the people who want to control you hold the absolute power of life and death over your family, you have been enslaved.
    Will we stand our ground, maintaining our constitutionally guaranteed Second Amendment rights, fighting those who would enslave us?

    American Thinker

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online