Illinois Supreme Court: Gun ban near parks unconstitutional

The state’s highest court on Thursday invalidated the Illinois prohibition on possession of a firearm within 1,000 feet of a park.

In a unanimous decision handed down in favor of Julio Chairez, who was convicted in 2013 of carrying a gun near a park in Aurora, Illinois, the state Supreme Court said the law itself was unconstitutional.

The court held that the 1,000-foot rule, especially since the resulting gun free zones surrounding parks are hard to define, that a gun owner could inadvertently violate the law just by just turning a street corner, or simply living near to a park. Further, the panel said the state did a poor job of making their case.

“In sum, based on the record, the State provides no evidentiary support for its claims that prohibiting firearms within 1,000 feet of a public park would reduce the risks it identifies,” wrote Chief Justice Lloyd Karmeier for the majority. “Without specific data or other meaningful evidence, we see no direct correlation between the information the State provides and its assertion that a 1,000-foot firearm ban around a public park protects children, as well as other vulnerable persons, from firearm violence.”

Chairez originally accepted a plea agreement in 2013 to carrying a gun near the Virgil L. Gilman Nature Trail but subsequently filed a petition to vacate the conviction arguing the law was unconstitutional under the Second Amendment. In court proceedings, his attorneys made the case that when a person is barred from carrying a firearm within the wide 1,000-foot area outlined, that they are effectively barred from carrying a gun in public.

The state held the law under scrutiny was not a blanket prohibition on the right to keep and bear arms, just a restriction on carrying one in some places.

The court did not address other places affected by the 1,000-foot rule besides public parks to include schools, courthouses, public transportation facility, or public housing.