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Judge wants legal arguments in gun dispute

EAST ST. LOUIS – A federal judge in East St. Louis has given gun-rights advocates and the state of Illinois until Thursday to submit written arguments on whether concealed carry can begin next week.

Friday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge William Stiehl means the court will not act immediately on a motion filed Wednesday that is backed by the Illinois State Rifle Association. Under the law passed Tuesday, Illinois State Police have six months, or 180 days, to set up a concealed-carry program before accepting applications. Once an application is received, police have 90 days to approve or reject it.

Mary Shepard filed a motion Wednesday – backed by the Illinois State Rifle Association – requesting an expedited federal court ruling that would allow concealed carry to begin as early as next Tuesday, saying the state would be denying her Second Amendment rights by waiting the mandated 270 days.

On Thursday, Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office filed a motion in federal court in East St. Louis asking that Shepard’s request be thrown out, saying the timeline should be allowed to run its course.

Tuesday’s passage of the guns bill over Gov. Pat Quinn’s vehement objections narrowly beat a deadline set by the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which last December ruled Illinois’ ban on public possession of handguns unconstitutional.

“When the Seventh Circuit stayed its mandate to give the General Assembly 180 days to craft legislation, the court could not have envisioned that a permitting process, complete with administrative rules, trained personnel, and a system of background checks, would spring into existence instantly upon the bill becoming law,” Terence Corrigan, an assistant state attorney general, wrote in the state’s filing.

If Shepherd wants to challenge the constitutionality of the 180-day period, she would need to do so in a new complaint rather than a motion seeking emergent relief from the judge, Corrigan wrote.

No hearing had been scheduled as of Friday morning.

Shepard, a gun owner from Cobden, was 69 years old in 2009 when she was beaten by an intruder and left for dead. In a lawsuit that led to this week’s law, she said had she not been barred from carrying a gun, she could have thwarted the attack.

Shepherd this week accused the state of dawdling, calling Illinois’ ability to delay introduction of the program for 270 days “an unacceptable perpetuation of the state’s adjudicated infringement” of her right to carry concealed weapons.

“Given the opportunity [and ample time] to act promptly to remedy its violation of the Constitution, the state of Illinois instead procrastinated,” her motion reads.

Some authorities have in recent weeks agreed with that interpretation, allowing citizens to start carrying guns or at least announcing they wouldn’t be prosecuted if they did.

A message left Friday with William Howard, one of Shepard’s Chicago attorneys, was not immediately returned.

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