SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Pat Quinn said Wednesday that he wants the state's attorney general to appeal a federal court ruling that Illinois' last -in the-nation concealed carry ban is unconstitutional, a move that would take it before the U.S. Supreme Court.
A three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Illinois' ban last year and gave lawmakers until early June to legalize the concealed carry of firearms. Last month, the court declined Illinois' request to reconsider the ruling.
The matter has led to intense hours-long hearings at the State Capitol, where lawmakers and anti-violence advocates from Chicago — which has seen a spike in violence — have been pitted against gun rights advocates from less populated and more conservative areas. The matter has placed Illinois in the spotlight at time when the nationwide debate over gun control has been reignited.
Quinn, a Chicago Democrat who favors strict gun control including an assault weapons ban, said violence has been an "epidemic" in parts of the state and Illinois should be the nation's leader in keeping the concealed carry ban in place.
"The only hope now would be to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court," he told reporters after an unrelated event. "The attorney general ought to take look at that and pursue that."
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who had said she hadn't decided whether to appeal, said Wednesday that she disagreed with Quinn. She said she wants to wait for lawmakers to come up with and act on a concealed-carry proposal first — even though she thinks that Illinois' law — which prohibits the concealed carry of weapons in public — is constitutional.
"If the Legislature passes a bill, then appealing would not necessarily be something we need to do, because it would become moot," she said.
Madigan's comments come as she's weighing a Democratic primary challenge against Quinn in next year's gubernatorial election. Madigan — also a Chicago Democrat who wants an assault weapons ban — has been a prominent attorney general who appeared on the national stage in connection with a range of issues, including home foreclosures. Her father, House Speaker Michael Madigan, is the head of the Democratic Party in Illinois and arguably the most powerful Democrat in the state.
Lisa Madigan dismissed the notion that waiting for a decision on a Supreme Court appeal was a political maneuver.
Since the court's December ruling, lawmakers have considered dozens of amendments dealing with concealed carry, many of which restricted where guns could be carried. That includes gun prohibitions in schools, casinos, stadiums and other locales. Gun-rights advocates have argued that the prohibition violates the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment.