The Illinois Supreme Court today handed down a pair of gun-related opinions.
The justices’ rulings came in the civil case of Jerry W. Coram v. State of Illinois and the criminal case of People v. Alberto Aguilar.
Though the cases presented the court with different issues, both of the rulings could be seen as a shot to those seeking further restrictions on the right to own and possess guns.
The civil case focused on the denial of a man’s Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card application while the criminal case dealt with a constitutional challenge to two sections of the state’s Aggravated Unlawful Use of Weapons (AUUW ) statute.
While the court was unanimous in its holding in Aguilar, the criminal case, it was split in Coram, with two justices specially concurring and two dissenting.
The issue in Coram stems from the Illinois State Police’s denial of Jerry Coram’s FOID card application.
In his 2009 application for a FOID card, Coram included information that he had been convicted in 1992 of domestic battery. He pled guilty and was sentenced to 12 months’ conditional discharge.
The state police denied his application based on an amendment to the federal Gun Control Act that imposed a firearm disability on individuals convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor.
In 2010, Coram petitioned the Adams County Circuit Court for a hearing on the denial of his FOID card application. The court then ordered the issuance of a FOID card, finding that he was not likely “to act in a manner dangerous to public safety.”
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office intervened in the case and filed a motion to vacate the court’s order, arguing that federal law prohibited Coram from possessing a gun based on his 1992 conviction.
In seeking to dismiss the state’s motion to vacate, Coram argued that the federal statute was unconstitutional because it violated his Second Amendment rights, as well as his rights to equal protection and due process.
The circuit court in 2011 determined that the federal statute prohibited it from granting Coram relief from the denial of FOID card application, but that it was unconstitutional as it violated Coram’s equal protection and due process rights.
In its 53-page opinion that included separate opinions for a special concurrence and a dissent, the majority of the court upheld the lower court’s order directing the state police to issue Coram a FOID card.
The majority of the court, however, vacated the part of the lower court ruling that determined the section of the federal law imposing firearm disability –Section 922(g)(9)—unconstitutional.
Instead of addressing the constitutionality of the challenged law, the majority of the court looked to state and federal statutes that lay out standards for reviewing the denial of FOID card applications and provide relief from federal firearms disabilities.
Justice Lloyd Karmeier delivered the court’s opinion. Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride and Justice Robert Thomas concurred.
Justices Ann Burke and Charles Freeman specially concurred, with Burke writing a separate opinion. Though they agreed with the end result of the majority’s ruling, they argued that the court’s analysis should have focused on the state’s FOID Card Act instead of Section 922(g)(9) of federal law.
Justices Mary Jane Theis wrote a dissenting opinion that Justice Rita Garman joined. Theis wrote that she would have reversed the lower court’s denial of the state’s motion to vacate the order directing it to issue Coram a FOID Card.
The dissenting justices contend that Coram’s disqualification from possessing a gun under federal law based on his 1992 conviction make him ineligible to obtain an Illinois FOID card.
The Supreme Court’s other gun-related ruling issued today came in the criminal case of People v. Alberto Aguilar, which challenged the state’s Aggravated Unlawful Use of Weapons (AUUW ) statute.
In the court’s 11-page opinion, which was delivered by Thomas, the justices struck down a section of the AUUW statue as unconstitutional, saying that it violates the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
The ruling stems from the 2008 arrest of Alberto Aguilar, who 17 at the time and in a friend’s backyard when police arrested him for having a gun. The trial court found him guilty of AUUW and being a minor in unlawful possession of a firearm.
Aguilar was sentenced to two years of probation on the AUUW conviction. The trial court did not sentence him on his unlawful possession of a firearm conviction.
He appealed, arguing that the sections he was convicted for under the AAUW statute are facially unconstitutional as they violate the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
In its analysis, the state high court looked to the U.S. Supreme Court opinions in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago, as well as the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals’ 2012 ruling in Moore v. Madigan.
The federal appeals panel in Moore held that Section 24-1.6(a)(1), (a)(3)(A) of the AUUW statue is “a flat ban on carrying ready-to-use guns outside the home” and as such, violates the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, as construed in Heller and McDonald.
Thomas wrote for the court that “As the Seventh Circuit correctly noted, neither Heller nor McDonald expressly limits the second amendment’s protections to the home.”
“Of course,” he added, “in concluding that the second amendment protects the right to possess and use a firearm for self-defense outside the home, we are in no way saying that such a right is unlimited or is not subject to meaningful regulation.”
“That said, we cannot escape the reality that, in this case, we are dealing not with reasonable regulation but with a comprehensive ban,” Thomas wrote.
In its opinion, the court struck down Section 24-1.6(a)(1), (a)(3)(A) as facially unconstitutional and as such, reversed Aguilar’s conviction under that section.
The court did, however, uphold Aguilar’s conviction under Section 24-3.1(a)(1), which makes it a crime for anyone under the age of 18 to unlawfully possess a firearm.
The justices held that the possession of handguns by minors falls outside the scope of the Second Amendment’s protection. They remanded the case back to the trial court to sentence Aguilar on his unlawful possession of a firearm conviction.
They noted that this sentence shall not exceed the sentence he previously received and that Aguilar shall receive credit for time already served on his AUUW conviction.
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