(CN) — The Seventh Circuit upheld an Illinois federal judge's refusal to stop the state from banning many nonresidents' applications to carry concealed firearms.
The Illinois Concealed Carry Act authorizes "law-abiding" and "mentally healthy" residents to carry, on their person or next to them in a car, a loaded or unloaded firearm — as long as it is at least partially concealed.
License applicants must not present a clear and present danger to themselves or others or a threat to public safety, must not have been a patient in a mental hospital in the past five years, and must not have been convicted of a misdemeanor involving the use or threat of physical force.
Applicants who have been in a residential or court-ordered drug or alcohol treatment program, or who have driven under the influence of drugs or alcohol twice or more, are also excluded from the program.
But the law's ban on applications from many nonresidents led the Illinois State Rifle Association, Second Amendment Foundation, Illinois Carry, and nine nonresidents licensed to carry concealed guns in their home states to challenge the law in federal court.
Though some of the plaintiffs allege they are certified Illinois concealed-carry instructors, they cannot apply to carry firearms in Illinois due to their residency in the 45 states with laws not "substantially similar" to Illinois regulations.
They claim the ban violates the Second Amendment, the equal-protection clause, the due-process clause, and the privileges and immunities clause of Article IV.
A federal judge in Central Illinois denied their motion for a preliminary injunction.
The plaintiffs appealed, but the Seventh Circuit sided with the lower court Thursday.
"The plaintiffs do make some apt criticisms of the Illinois law," Judge Richard Posner wrote for the divided three-judge panel.
Those include the fact that licenses are not revoked or reassessed if a resident returns from a trip to another state, even though Illinois will not know whether they committed a crime or had a mental breakdown in that state, according to the ruling.
The law is thus "imperfect," but not "unreasonable," the majority ruling states.
"The critical problem presented by the plaintiffs' demand—for which they offer no solution—is verification," Posner wrote. "A nonresident's application for an Illinois concealed-carry license cannot be taken at face value. The assertions in it must be verified. And Illinois needs to receive reliable updates in order to confirm that license-holders remain qualified during the five-year term of the license. Yet its ability to verify is extremely limited unless the nonresident lives in one of the four states that have concealed-carry laws similar to Illinois' law. A trial in this case may cast the facts in a different light, but the plaintiffs have not made a case for a preliminary injunction."
But Judge Daniel Manion dissented from the majority.
"The state's chosen method to regulate nonresident concealed-carry license applications is not sufficiently tailored to its goal of properly vetting out-of-state applicants' criminal and mental histories," Manion wrote. "Therefore, the ban violates the Second Amendment."
Manion later added, "Today's decision will have a profound and unfortunate impact on the scope of Second Amendment rights in our circuit. The court's decision has unnecessarily muddied the waters and cast significant doubt upon our holdings in Ezell and Moore. Rather than create confusion, we should reaffirm that state laws affecting the fundamental right to carry a firearm for self-defense are subject to exacting scrutiny. Under this standard, the plaintiffs are entitled to a preliminary injunction. I respectfully dissent."
Annie Thompson, press secretary for the state attorney general's office, declined to comment on the ruling.
The plaintiffs' attorney, David Sigale in Glen Ellyn, Ill., did not immediately return a request for comment Monday.
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