MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Illinois Woman Sues Public Housing Authority That Says She Can’t Have a Gun to Protect Herself from an Abusive Ex-Husband

Can public housing authorities strip you of your Second Amendment rights?

Gun Free ZoneAlptraum/Dreamstime.comCan you lose your Second Amendment rights just by virtue of living in government-owned housing?

That is the issue in a lawsuit filed Wednesday by an Illinois woman and licensed firearm owner looking to overturn the East St. Louis Housing Authority's (ESLHA) prohibition on their tenants keeping guns in their residences.

The plaintiff—an ESLHA tenant identified only as N. Doe over concerns for her safety—wants to keep a weapon for self-defense, but has reportedly been threatened with eviction by both the housing agency and its executive director Mildred Motley—named as a party to the suit—unless she can verify that she does not keep a firearm in her home.

"This is a woman who has been attacked in her home, is under severe threat right now…and simply wants the means to protect herself and her family," says David Sigale, the attorney representing Doe.

According to the complaint, Doe is being actively threatened by her abusive ex-husband, a convicted murderer who, while on parole, visited shocking violence on Doe, including choking her into unconsciousness, beating her so severely she bled internally, and threatening to kill her and her children should she end their relationship.

Doe's ex-husband was sent back to prison because of these assaults, but has since been released, and has reportedly made subsequent threats against her. Doe, understandably wishes to keep a firearm in her home to protect herself and her two teenage children. Thanks to ESLHA policy, she is prohibited from doing so.

This, claims her lawsuit, denies "lawful persons Second Amendment rights due to their financial disadvantage and circumstances of residing in government housing."

Says Sigale, the Supreme Court established with its 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller case that "people are allowed to have a functional operative handgun in their home for self-defense." Heller was a landmark Second Amendment case that struck down a D.C. law forbidding most residents from keeping handguns in their homes.

Sigale has litigated a previous Second Amendment case against a housing authority in Warren County, Illinois which had similarly forbade residents from keeping firearms in their residences. That case ended with the housing authority agreeing to voluntarily strip the offending provisions about firearms possession from its lease agreements. No ruling was made as to the constitutionality of the such restrictions.

Sigale tells Reason he hopes his most recent lawsuit will clarify the constitutional question and secure his clients right to self-defense. "We want a declaration from the court that forbidding firearm possession by qualified people, whether on the threat of eviction or a stern fine, that that is unconstitutional."

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in United States District Court for Southern Illinois. The ESLHA has yet to respond.

CORRECTION: The spelling of Sigale's name has been corrected.

Photo Credit: Alptraum/Dreamstime.com

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.

  • Eidde||

    Can they restrict tenants from keeping books in their residences? After all, the 1st Amendment protects books just like the 2nd protects guns.

    I better not give them ideas.

  • SQRLSY One||

    As long as they get "book permits", and comply with "reasonable book control laws" as given unto us by Government Almighty, I can't see ANY reason to complain.

    Now if'n these books come with scary-looking pistol grips, bayonet-mounting stubs, mega-magazines, or YUUUGE clips? Or if they are FULLY semiautomatic, assault books?!?!? All bets are off!!!!

  • Microaggressor||

    Nobody needs more than 300 pages.

  • CE||

    And what exactly is a "movie" if not a picture book with automatic feed?

  • Libertarian||

    Ayn Rand did.

  • Cy||

    She went a bit overboard on the radio speech. Dear god that was long.

  • Chumby||

    Only well-regulated librarians should have access to books. Why do you NEED a book? Is it to compensate for something?

  • Eidde||

  • Pinky||

    They wouldn't restrict books, they would restrict the paper the books are printed on.

  • Hamster of Doom||

    We keep burning things we don't like.

    I had a pal, when I was just a kid. Guy named Ryan - y'all don't know him, don't care, it's no big. He was 14 when he stood up to the wrong people and committed suicide by a gun to the back of the head.

    Personally, I can't wait until we can discuss all the things that aren't supposed to happen in America. Y'all let me know when that happens, kay? Coz otherwise I'll just know I've gone to hell when I'm making bikinis out of toilet paper in Guantanamo like captive bridesmaids who know - deep in their hearts - that this is all for some selfish tit's funtimes.

  • SQRLSY One||

    "I can't wait until we can discuss all the things that aren't supposed to happen in America. "

    Then start the conversation! Are you implying we should restrict or outlaw guns 'cause people commit suicide with them? My full blood sibling punched his or her stupid-ass ticket by drinking insecticide. Should insecticide be outlawed for that reason? Stupid people do stupid things, and evil people do evil things, and trying to prevent them from doing stupid or evil, by taking away their tools of stupid or evil, is a fool's errand. They always find another way, if they are hell-bent on doing it.

  • Maddow's Fleshlight||

    "Then start the conversation! Are you implying we should restrict or outlaw guns 'cause people commit suicide with them?"

    You need to reread what he wrote. That's not even close.

  • Joe_JP||

    Children and people in prison have some access the books while they can be restricted from having guns.

    Seems the two things might in certain contexts not be treated exactly the same way.

    As applied, she seems to have a very good case, especially given recent SCOTUS precedent. Over ten years ago, the laws would look a bit more reasonable under current law. Plus, the facts suggest as applied she might even be justified under some "for cause" rule.

    Still books and guns are treated differently in various respects.

  • Eidde||

    To be sure, but prisoners lose their guns because they're deprived of their underlying right of self-defense. Public-housing tenants aren't so deprived.

    Plus, as Reason magazine itself discovered, all sorts of perfectly legal literature can be banned in prison.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Perhaps some sort of 'housing resource officer' is in order here.

  • BYODB||

    Well, yeah, obviously. Gun control has always had disarming black people and poor folks as one of it's primary reasons for being pushed.


    Is anyone other than the borderline retarded unaware of that simple fact? I mean, it's obvious at face value when those with means can afford to literally hire a private army but if you're poor and living in government housing (specifically, one of the types of housing organizations that should have no right to remove your 2nd amendment rights as it's explicitly the government) you're not even allowed to have one gun.


    Sheesh, it's like I'm taking crazy pills.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Probably start weening yourself off those pills.

  • BillyG||

    Its fully documented the original "Gun Control" laws were for dissarming blacks. Even modern ones, originating in California, were specifically enacted after blacks exercised their right to carry. Pills? Try actually learning history.

  • Inigo Montoya||

    There's so much in the history of the Progressive movement that's specifically racist. It's not just gun control. Early drug laws were meant to keep white youths from being "corrupted" by the recreational substances favored by blacks and Latinos. That's why whiskey and beer were okay but reefers were not. And minimum wage laws were introduced as a way of keeping uppity minorities and white women with possible ambitions of ditching their husbands priced out of the workforce.

    At some point you have to wonder to what extent today's progs are just benignly ignorant of their own history, or how much they secretly still feel the same way.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Hell no she shouldn't have a gun! Let her have one, and soon you'll have guns all over East St. Louis' housing projects!!

  • Longtobefree||

    "We want a declaration from the court that forbidding firearm possession by qualified people, whether on the threat of eviction or a stern fine, that that is unconstitutional."

    And, oh by the way, everyone who is a citizen has that right. The qualification is US Citizenship. Deal with it.

  • CE||

    The Bill of Rights doesn't just apply to US citizens. That's because it applies to the US government -- they can't deny those rights to any person (except in war or with letters of marque and reprisal).

  • CE||

    Another reason why waiting periods for purchases are a bad idea. If someone is threatening you now, 3 days later is too late.

  • Chumby||

    In Maryland, when I lived there, it was a two week waiting period for handguns.

  • Sevo||

    "If someone is threatening you now, 3 days later is too late."

    When seconds count....

  • sparkstable||

    Just call the police! Duh! I mean... sure, once they secure their own safety, which is paramount, there is no reason to think they won't protect you. And if, instead, they shoot you, then that's just proof you were guilty of something in the first place and undeserving of any human rights.

    What's the problem?

  • Inigo Montoya||

    What's that saying about it being easier to seek forgiveness than ask permission. Maybe she should have just kept the gun and, if it ever came into question (say after successfully defending herself), plead ignorance to the HOA's stupid rules. Good luck to them getting more sympathy from the courts and the public than a woman who has been the repeated victim of domestic abuse.

    Speaking of abuse, maybe the ex-husbad's parole officer needs to be made aware that the guy has been making violent threats since his release.

    And does this poor lady have no relatives and friends who could organize a little blanket party late one night for this guy? Just beat the tar out of him and warn him that if he doesn't lay off the threats and cease making any attempt at contacting her, the next surprise beatdown he receives will leave him permanently disabled. Sometimes assholes like that just won't understand being reasoned with.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    Ah...the good old days

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    "Speaking of abuse, maybe the ex-husbad's parole officer needs to be made aware that the guy has been making violent threats since his release."

    Why are you assuming he's out on parole? He was already sent back to prison for parole violations. It's entirely possible he finished out his full sentence in prison and is out without being on parole.

    No, people who serve their full sentences are not subject to the supervision of the parole system, parole is strictly an early release prospect.

  • Inigo Montoya||

    Point taken.

    So that one more reason to give him a blanket party in recognition of his latest shenanigans. Obviously going to prison as a punishment for abusing and threatening women taught him nothing, so maybe he needs a more hands-on educational approach.

    Then again, I've lately been reliving the glory days of my youth by re-reading 1970s and 80s-era Batman comics, so I've been thinking a gauntleted fist is sometimes the bery best way to curtail criminals, be they street thugs like this guy or high-level political operatives like Boss Thorne.

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    Criminal threatening would be a new charge for which he could be arrested.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    "Criminal threatening would be a new charge for which he could be arrested."

    If the police could be bothered to care. The Florida school shooter reportedly made multiple threats and outright assaults that were reported to the police but he was never arrested.

  • Hamster of Doom||

    Cruz didn't threaten anyone important. The cops will deal with your personal "civil" issues when and if they feel it necessary.

    They probably won't feel it necessary unless you're important. Pay no heed to this, because we live under the rule of law. HA. Ha ha ha ha ha. I bet they actually believe that shit, too.

    http://faculty.msb.edu/hasnasj.....lDraft.pdf

  • Rossami||

    The housing authority also asserted, as a condition of the lease, the right to inspect the premises at any time and without notice and to unilaterally evict the residents for any "lease violations". So not only were they demanding that she give up her Second Amendment rights, they tried to assert that she should have to Fourth Amendment or due process rights.

    Forgiveness rather than permission only works when you'll only be found out if the worst happens. The worst case in this situation would have been an unannounced inspection, the inspector finds and seizes the gun (as evidence, after all), she's evicted and then the ex-husband finds and attacks her while she has no safe place at all to go.

  • Rossami||

    typo. "have to Fourth" should be "have no Fourth".

  • Chumby||

    If she calls 911 and says he's a young boy ith a toy gun her problem would likely be solved.

  • Eidde||

    Or she could glue some fake dog ears on his head.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Sigel tells Reason he hopes his most recent lawsuit will clarify the constitutional question and secure his clients right to self-defense.

    It's just as likely if not more so to go the other way.

  • BillyG||

    If it does go the other way, then I expect some people to push for limiting other constitutional rights to anyone in public housing or on welfare...such as the right to vote.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

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