On May 31, the Illinois Senate and the Illinois House passed the 168 page “Firearm Concealed Carry Act.”  The new law, if signed by Governor Quinn, will replace a law that banned carrying concealed firearms in the State – a law that was held unconstitutional by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on Dec. 11, 2012. The Seventh Circuit stayed its decision for 180 days to give Illinois a chance to adopt a law consistent with its opinion. On June 4, the court extended the stay by 30 days to give Gov. Quinn a chance to review the bill before deciding whether to sign it.

The new law would require the Illinois State Police to issue a license to carry a concealed or partially concealed handgun to any person who is 21 years old, has a Firearm Owners Identification Card, has not been convicted of a felony, has not been convicted of certain misdemeanors within five years, does not pose a danger to himself, herself, or others, does not pose a threat to public safety, has taken 16 hours of training, and meets other requirements. The license is valid for five years.

Any law enforcement agency may object to the issuance of a license “based upon a reasonable suspicion that the applicant is a danger to himself or herself or others, or a threat to public safety.” If an objection is filed, the applicant for the license may request a hearing before a Concealed Carry Licensing Review Board.

Under the Act a person is prohibited from carrying a handgun into 23 specified areas, such as schools, hospitals, courthouses, public playgrounds and parks, public libraries, museums and  zoos, stadiums, bars, and restaurants that make 50% of their income on liquor sales.

Significantly, and we think unfortunately, the Act preempts Evanston’s and other cities’ power to regulate handguns and to a lesser extent other firearms. The Act does this in three separate provisions.

First, Section 90 of the Act provides that the “regulation, licensing, possession, registration, and transportation of handguns … by licensees are exclusive powers and functions of the State.” It also provides that any municipal ordinance that “purports to impose regulations or restrictions on licensees of handguns … in a manner inconsistent with this Act shall be invalid in its application to licensees under this Act … ”

This provision will directly impact Evanston. Evanston has an ordinance that prohibits a person from possessing a handgun, except when the handgun is kept at the residence of such person for self-protection. Section 90 of the Act would invalidate this ordinance to the extent it applies to persons who hold a license under the Act. 

Section 150 of the Act, amending Section 13.1 of the Firearm Owner’s Identification Card[FOIC] Act, provides that “the regulation, licensing, possession, and registration of handguns … , and the transportation of any firearm … by a holder of a valid [FOIC] …. are exclusive powers and functions of this State.” It goes on to state that any ordinance that “purports to impose restrictions or regulations on a holder of a valid [FOIC] … in a manner that is inconsistent with the [FOIC] Act …. shall be invalid in its application to a holder of [an FOIC] … “

This section distinguishes between handguns and firearms, and the State’s preemption of ordinances that regulate firearms (other than handguns) only extends to ordinances that regulate the “transportation” of such firearms. There appears to be room for home rule municipalities to adopt regulations with respect to firearms that do not constitute a handgun, such as short-barreled rifles or shotguns and weapons that require the use of two hands.

Third, the Act provides “the regulation of the possession and ownership of assault weapons are exclusive functions of this State.” This provision contains an important exception, though. It does not invalidate existing ordinances that regulate the ownership or possession of assault weapons, or those that are adopted “within 10 days after the effective date” of the Act. Any ordinance adopted before the 10-day window expires remains valid under the State’s preemption law. Those adopted after the 10 day window are deemed invalid.

We think it is unfortunate that the State was required to permit concealed carry in this State, and unfortunate that the legislature preempted home rule powers in this area. In light of the gun violence in this City, we think City Council should adopt an ordinance that regulates the ownership and possession of assault weapons in this City. There is a 10-day window to do so, starting from the date Gov. Quinn signs the Act into law (assuming he does so).

City Council should also consider adopting an ordinance that regulates other firearms that do not constitute a handgun, such as short-barreled rifles or shotguns. The City Council may be precluded from regulating the transportation of such firearms in a manner inconsistent with the FOIA Act, but may have room to regulate such weapons in other areas.