Illinois Joins the Other 49 States, Finally Ends Blanket Prohibition on Right to Keep and Bear Arms Print
By Timothy H. Lee
Thursday, July 11 2013
Possessing a firearm makes you safer, not less safe.

This week, Illinois ended its dubious distinction as the final state prohibiting citizens from carrying concealed firearms. 

The change was compelled by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which ruled last year that Illinois’s draconian restrictions on the individual right to keep and bear arms amounted to a violation of the Second Amendment.  In that ruling, the Court gave state authorities until July 9 of this year to revise its regulations. 

That revision didn’t come easy.  Over a month ago, the state legislature passed a law instructing authorities to issue permits to citizens who passed background checks and completed 16 hours of firearms education, but Democratic Governor Pat Quinn issued a veto.  This week, over three-fifths of legislators in both houses overrode that veto, which drew this curious statement from Governor Quinn: 

“Members of the General Assembly surrendered to the National Rifle Association and passed a flawed bill.  Public safety should never be compromised or negotiated away.” 

“Public safety should never be compromised?”  That compromise of public safety occurred long ago when Illinois imposed some of the strictest gun restrictions in the country.  Among other things, his state is home to Chicago, the nation’s most notorious center of violent crime.  In contrast, Vermont possesses the nation’s longest record of unrestricted firearms carry laws, but remains among the most crime-free states in America.  Accordingly, what compromises public safety are restrictive firearms laws like the one Governor Quinn fought to preserve. 

More broadly, the United States has undergone a remarkable transition over the past three decades in terms of concealed carry laws. 

In 1982, Vermont was the only state with unrestricted right to carry laws, and only eight states were “shall issue” states (meaning that authorities shall issue permits, and have no discretion to deny as long as established criteria are met).  The rest were either “no issue” or “may issue” (meaning that authorities issued permits only upon their discretion, which they naturally abused). 

Today, those numbers are reversed.  Only eight states maintain may issue laws, while the rest are either unrestricted or shall issue.  During that period in which carry restrictions have receded, firearm purchases have also reached record highs, and public approval of firearms restrictions has plummeted.  At the same time, violent crime and murder rates have also plummeted.  Thus the adage and best-selling title, “More Guns, Less Crime.” 

Meanwhile, there’s good news at the federal level as well. 

As part of his renewed gun control campaign earlier this year, Barack Obama instructed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to do what federal bureaucracies do – conduct yet another study on gun violence and recommend future action.  Well, that report is now public and the findings confirm what Second Amendment advocates have been saying for years. 

Specifically, the report acknowledges that firearms are used for lawful, defensive purposes more often than to commit violent crime.  “Almost all national survey estimates,” the study says, “indicate that defensive gun uses by victims are at least as common as offensive uses by criminals, with estimates of annual uses ranging from about 500,000 to more than three million per year, in the context of about 300,000 violent crimes involving firearms in 2008.” 

Moreover, the study dismantles the myth that firearms in the hands of law-abiding citizens increase risk and are more likely to be used against them than to help them:  “Studies that directly assessed the effect of actual defensive uses of guns (i.e., incidents in which a gun was ‘used’ by the crime victim in the sense of attacking or threatening an offender) have found consistently lower injury rates among gun-using crime victims compared with victims who used other self-protective strategies.” 

Translation:  Possessing a firearm makes you safer, not less safe. 

To its credit, even the left-leaning Slate accepted the findings in an article entitled, “Rethinking Gun Control:  Surprising Findings from a Comprehensive Report on Gun Violence.” 

Thus, in an era where libertarians and conservatives rightfully lament the erosion of individual freedom in America, Second Amendment rights remain an illustrious exception.  It’s nice to see that even Illinois lawmakers finally smelled the coffee in that regard, Governor Quinn conspicuously excluded.