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Smiddy to host concealed carry classes

Program helps people get Utah licenses

Published: Monday, April 15, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, April 15, 2013 12:59 p.m. CDT
Caption
Mike Smiddy

Many Democrats oppose concealed carry of firearms. But that's not as often the case in downstate Illinois.

In fact, state Rep. Mike Smiddy, D-Hillsdale, is hosting concealed carry permit classes in Morrison and Port Byron on April 28.

"Supporting local gun owners and guaranteeing our right to own and carry firearms is very important to me," Smiddy said in a news release.

"I am committed to fighting for the Second Amendment in Springfield, and thrilled to have this opportunity to join local residents in obtaining our own concealed carry licenses through this course."

Smiddy, who represents Whiteside County, is sponsoring an NRA-endorsed bill that would permit concealed carry in Illinois. Late last year, a federal court gave Illinois 6 months to enact a law allowing concealed carry; it is the only state without one.

In an interview, Smiddy said lawmakers are coming around to the idea that the state had better follow the court order. Otherwise, he said, the state, by default, will end up with concealed carry of weapons without regulations.

"If we don't pass a law, that means you wouldn't have to go through classes. You only would need a FOID card to carry," Smiddy said. "This needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. The opponents of concealed carry are realizing that."

The class will be be taught by SAFE Gun Permits LLC, which will take the necessary photographs, fingerprint students, and mail the student applications. Students then will be eligible for a concealed carry license through the state of Utah, which is recognized in Utah and 30 other states, including every one that borders Illinois.

"Many students ask if this will suffice for the impending Illinois permit," Craig Celia, owner of SAFE Gun Permits, said in the release. "We will not know this answer until Illinois passes a concealed carry law. Once Illinois passes a law, Illinois residents will not be able to obtain a Utah non-resident permit until they obtain their home state permit first, so the time to apply for a Utah permit is now."

In Whiteside and Rock Island counties, where the concealed carry classes are planned, the percentage of FOID cardholders is lower than most other downstate counties. According to state police data, 15.5 percent of Whiteside County residents and 12.6 percent of Rock Island County residents are cardholders.

Smiddy said he supports the FOID card system, which he said is unique among the states.

"I look forward to going to the classes," he said. "I hope we have a good turnout."

To take a class

State Rep. Mike Smiddy, D-Hillsdale, is hosting two concealed carry permit classes April 28.

The first will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Whiteside County Farm Bureau, 100 E. Knox St. in Morrison; the second will be from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Coe Township Building, 9327 239th St. N. in Port Byron.

Cost is $100, plus a $51 processing fee to the state of Utah. Go to www.safegunpermits.com/classes to sign up; contact Smiddy's office at repsmiddy@gmail.com, 309-848-9098 or toll-free at 855-243-4988 for more information.

Supreme Court considers whether to hear case on guns in public

WASHINGTON – While Congress debates proposals for tighter gun regulation, the Supreme Court is considering a case that challenges state laws that strictly limit who can carry guns in public.

When the justices ruled in 2008 and 2010 that the Second Amendment gave people a right to keep firearms in their homes, it did not address whether they had a right to carry weapons outside the home.

Gun rights advocates have asked the court to strike down New York’s law allowing officials to deny “concealed carry” permits to gun owners unless they can show a “special need for self-protection.” They want the justices to rule that the Second Amendment gives law-abiding gun owners a right to be armed on the streets. An announcement from the court on whether it will hear the case could come today.

Justice Antonin Scalia, in his 5-4 majority opinion in the 2008 Heller case striking down a ban on handguns in the District of Columbia, described the Second Amendment as creating a “right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.”

Citing Scalia’s words, gun rights advocates have mounted challenges to laws in seven states that routinely deny permits to gun owners who wish to carry loaded or unloaded guns with them. Typically, these laws say the gun owner must show a “proper cause” or “good cause” to obtain a permit. California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York have such laws.

“This case could be more important than Heller,” said University of California, Los Angeles, law professor Adam Winkler. “The biggest unanswered question about the Second Amendment is whether people have a right to carry guns in public.”

In December, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago struck down the Illinois law, the nation’s strictest. It was understood to bar all but police and security guards from carrying guns in public.

Judge Richard Posner said the Supreme Court had described the Second Amendment as conferring “a right to bear arms for self-defense,” and if so, being armed is “as important outside the home as inside.” The decision gave state lawmakers 6 months to craft a new law that would allow the carrying of guns in public in a way that is “consistent with public safety.”

In November, however, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York upheld that state’s law, which is often described as the nation’s second-strictest. It authorizes gun owners to obtain permits to carry weapons in public, but only if they can persuade county officials that they have “a special need” to be armed. Evidence of “good moral character” is not enough, nor is living or working in a “high-crime area,” the judges said.

The appeals court rejected a constitutional claim brought by Alan Kachalsky and several other residents of Westchester County who were turned down for permits. The Second Amendment does not “call into question the state’s traditional authority to extensively regulate handgun possession in public,” the appeals court said.

Attorney Alan Gura, who won the Second Amendment rulings in the case from District of Columbia and the 2010 case from Chicago, appealed the New York case to the Supreme Court. He says the New York decision made the right to bear arms “practically worthless. If it is a constitutional right, you don’t have to prove to the government that you are entitled to exercise your rights,” he said.

If the justices vote to take up the appeal, the Kachalsky case will be heard in the fall.

But Winkler, the UCLA law professor, and others think the court may choose to put off a decision on the reach of gun rights. “Some of the justices may be hesitant to take a Second Amendment case while nerves are still raw from Newtown,” Winkler said.

The school shootings in Newtown, Conn., has forced Congress to take another look at the nation’s gun laws, and last week the Senate voted to begin debate on expanding the background checks required for purchasing a handgun.

If the justices deny the appeal in the New York case, it would not set a legal precedent, but it would be seen by some as allowing state and local officials leeway in deciding who can carry a gun in public.

But the continuing litigation will almost surely force the court to decide the issue in the next few years. In December, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard challenges to the concealed-carry laws from two California counties and from Hawaii. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has until May to decide whether to ask the Supreme Court to review the 7th Circuit decision striking down the state’s ban on carrying guns in public.

-MCT News Service

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