By Greg Bishop
Illinois News Network
SPRINGFIELD — More gun free zones are in the sights of gun rights activists after the Illinois Supreme Court unanimously shot down one around public parks.
Last week’s ruling from the state’s highest court centered around Julio Chairez, who was charged criminally for having a concealed weapon within 1,000 feet of Virgil Gilman Trail in Aurora.
Illinois State Rifle Association Executive Director Richard Pearson praised the 7-0 ruling against the 1,000 foot barrier around public parks in state law. He agreed with the court that it was too burdensome for law-abiding citizens to navigate where they could or could not carry a firearm for protection, especially in Chicago, where there are 600 parks.
“There’s actually no place you can go in parts of Chicago that you can be a gun owner and even drive through the place,” Person said.
The ruling written by Chief Justice Lloyd Karmeier said “the most troubling aspect [of the 1,000 feet ban] is the lack of any notification where the 1,000-foot restriction zone starts and where it would end,” the ruling said. “Innocent behavior could swiftly be transformed into culpable conduct if an individual unknowingly crosses into a firearm restriction zone.”
Karmeir’s opinion said the state “conceded that an individual who lives within 1,000 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.
“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 ruling said. “This requirement, however, renders the ability to defend oneself inoperable and is in direct contradiction” with other cases.
There are 23 different areas in Illinois you can’t carry a firearm in Illinois by law, even if you have a concealed carry permit, Pearson said.
“Like schools, like libraries, other 1,000 foot zones,” he said. “And I imagine that those are all going to be declared unconstitutional in a certain amount of time.”
But, Pearson said, there’s just one problem. Someone will have to be charged with violating the law to challenge it.
“We just have to wait for the right case to show up and see what happens,” Pearson said. “Nobody wants to be the guinea pig on purpose.”
The state’s argument in favor of the ban was it was for public health. The unanimous decision said that argument lacked any valid explanation of how the law would achieve that goal and doesn’t survive the heightened scrutiny that applies to burdening Second Amendment rights.