Chicago: From a Handgun Ban to a Right to Carry Concealed Handguns

Illinois has just become a shall-issue state, which means that pretty much any law-abiding adult age 21 and above can get a license to carry a concealed handgun in public. To be sure, something will depend on how the law is implemented, and my understanding is that gun rights supporters see the law as narrower (and more burdensome) than they’d like. But let’s not miss the forest for the trees: Illinois residents — like the residents of all but 8 states — are now able to effectively defend themselves in public using pretty the same kinds of weapons that the police, bodyguards, and the like use to defend themselves.

That is remarkable, especially in a state that until recently hosted one of the few handgun bans (in Chicago and its environs), which prohibited possessing handguns even in the home. The change of course was triggered by Second Amendment litigation, in McDonald v. City of Chicago, which struck down the handgun ban, and Moore v. Madigan, a Seventh Circuit decision that struck down Illinois’ total carry ban. But it wasn’t just litigation: Moore did not clearly hold that restrictive licensing schemes (such as those in California, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, or Rhode Island) are unconstitutional, so the Illinois Legislature could have experimented with those. And of course Illinois could have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Moore decision.

Rather, as with the immense success of the shall-issue movement more broadly over the last 30 years, a big part of the success was political. The notion that people should be free to be their own and their families’ bodyguards, even if they aren’t rich or important enough to get police escorts or hired bodyguards, has been remarkably successful politically, throughout the U.S., including in many deep blue states. Here’s an animation illustrating this (which apparently came from Jeff Dege):

This is a remarkable political story. In the same era that the top mainstream media stories about gun laws have been about gun control, the most practically significant movement on gun law has been this movement of (limited) gun decontrol. I just hope that some day soon the movement will come even to my own California; to be sure, that might seem politically implausible, but I would have thought many people would have said the same about Illinois a year or two ago.