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Monday, July 22, 2024 | Back issues
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Illinois Supreme Court|Strikes Gun Law

CHICAGO (CN) - The Illinois Supreme Court struck down a law that effectively bans carrying "ready-to-use" guns outside the home.

Edward Burns, a felon, was convicted of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon (AUUW) after police found him with an unholstered, loaded handgun in a parked car.

The AUUW law states that no one may carry an uncased, loaded handgun on a public street, in a vehicle, or concealed on his or her person if the weapon is "immediately accessible."

After a bench trial, Burns was sentenced to 10 years in prison, an enhanced sentence due to his prior felony convictions.

While a state may prohibit felons from carrying readily accessible guns despite the Second Amendment - and in fact Illinois has a law forbidding felons from possessing any kind of firearm - the AUUW law applies to everyone.

In reversing the appellate court ruling and vacating the conviction and sentence, Justice Anne Burke wrote for the court: "The offense, as enacted by the Legislature, does not include as an element of the offense the fact that the offender has a prior felony conviction. An unconstitutional statute does not 'become constitutional' simply because it is applied to a particular category of persons who could have been regulated, had the Legislature seen fit to do so."

The Legislature may not pass broad laws and leave it to the courts to decide to whom the statute may constitutionally apply, Burke said in the Jan. 22 opinion.

Chief Justice Rita Garman wrote in a special concurrence that she agreed that the AUUW law is unconstitutional, because it violates due process, but that as applied to Burns it is valid, so the issue was not properly before the court.

"The majority fails to explain how a statute can violate the Second Amendment rights of an individual who is not entitled to exercise Second Amendment rights," Garmin wrote.

Justice Robert Thomas joined in the concurrence, "that the statute is facially unconstitutional, though on different grounds than the majority, I concur with the majority's judgment that defendant's conviction and sentence must be vacated."

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