As Gov. Pat Quinn dithers over whether to sign into law the concealed carry bill approved by the state Legislature last month, at least two Illinois prosecutors have said that they will not wait for the governor to make up his mind and, therefore, they will forgo filing charges against “responsible, law-abiding citizens” who carry concealed weapons within their respective jurisdictions.
The latest to make the announcement is Jeremy Walker, the State Attorney for Randolph County, who made his intentions clear in a statement on Tuesday.
“Effective immediately, the Randolph County State’s Attorney’s Office is announcing responsible, law-abiding citizens will finally be able to exercise their constitutional right to carry concealed weapons in Randolph County,” Walker said in a statement.
Walker then elaborated on what prompted him to make the call, citing the federal court’s decision last December that struck down Illinois’s ban on concealed carry, the court ruled it was “unconstitutional,” and gave state lawmakers 180 days [or until June 9] to draft a bill that would allow responsible citizens to carry their firearms in public.
“In May I spoke with the Randolph County Police Association and indicated I would give the Legislature and the governor until June 9 [the date mandated by the Federal Appellate Court] to give citizens the opportunity to carry concealed weapons,” Walker explained. “June 9 has come and gone with no resolution. Accordingly, I feel it is time to act.”
As mentioned, Walker was not the first State’s Attorney to decriminalize concealed carry. Madison County State’s Attorney Thomas Gibbons made the call last Thursday that he would not prosecute Illinois’ ban on concealed carry.
Upon making the announcement, Gibbons released guidelines to all local police agencies in his county. Walker followed suit, releasing a near identical list, as KMOX reported:
- The person must have a valid Firearm Owners Identification Cars (FOID);
- The person must not be prohibited from possessing a firearm under any Court Order or Statute;
- The firearm must be concealed on the person, or in a vehicle;
- The person must not be engaged in any criminal conduct;
- If stopped by a police officer, the person must immediately notify the officer if he or she is carrying a weapon;
- The person may not carry a weapon in the courthouse, any school or any church.
Due to the fact that Quinn has been granted a 30-day extension from the June 9 deadline, he has until July 9 to sign or veto the bill, many believe that Walker and Gibbons are jumping the gun.
The State Attorney for Adams County, Jon Barnard, criticized Walker and Gibbons’s decision to “go rogue,” as the CS Monitor labeled it.
“We don’t know what that new law will include and not include,” Barnard told the Quincy Journal. “I believe that it is not appropriate for this office, or any other states attorney office, to speculate on what the new law is by implementing that personal belief.”
“It is not for us to determine what the future of the law is or should be,” Barnard continued. “That’s a fundamental constitutional separation of powers approach.”
Though, as noted, one can argue that this is not a matter of personal belief, that Gibbons and Walker are simply following the orders of the federal appeals court, which unambiguously ruled Illinois’s ban on concealed carry was unconstitutional.
Yet, Barnard believes it’s best for individuals in his position to steer clear of controversy when possible and just enforce the letter of the law.
“There is already controversy now with specific components of the bill. My job as a states attorney is to enforce the law. I don’t concern myself with whether it’s going to be popular or not.”
What are your thoughts? Are Gibbons and Walker doing the right thing? Or should they wait until the governor makes his decision?