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Federal Court Throws Out Illinois Ban On Concealed Carry Of Guns

via Flickr/Of Small Things

Updated with comments from Illinois officials. Amanda Vinicky contributed reporting from Springfield.

Illinois is the only state in the union that bans the concealed carrying of guns.

A ruling today from a federal appeals court may change all that.

The 2-1 decision stems from two nearly identical cases brought in 2011 in Adams and Union counties. Both district courts decided that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in District of Columbia vs. Heller did not extend the right to use a gun in self-defense outside the home.

The cases were consolidated for appeal, and today's decision reversed the district court holdings.

"To confine the right to be armed to the home is to divorce the Second Amendment from the right of self-defense" described in Heller and a companion case that extended its provisions to the states, judges Richard Posner and Joel Flum wrote in the majority decision. Take, for example, they said, a woman who is being stalked by an abusive ex-husband .

"She has a stronger self-defense claim to be allowed to carry a gun in public than the resident of a fancy apartment building (complete with doorman) has a claim to sleep with a loaded gun under her mattress."

Judge Ann Williams, a Clinton appointee writing in dissent, argued that there is a longstanding history (back to the 14th century) of limiting the carriage of guns in public. She also pointed out that the majority's recognition that there may be some limits on who can carry guns and where means the 2nd Amendment is not absolute.

"Indeed, the Supreme Court would deem it presumptively permissible to outright forbid the carrying of firearms in certain public places, but that does not mean that a self-defense need never arises in those places. The teacher being stalked by her ex-husband is susceptible at work, and in her school parking lot, and on the school playground, to someone intent on harming her. So why would the Supreme Court reassure us that a legislature can ban guns in certain places? It must be out of a common-sense recognition of the risks that arise when guns are around."

Posner and Flum gave the state 180 days to come up with a new law that would allow Illinois residents to carry a gun in public, though they agreed that some restrictions on who can carry guns and where are acceptable.

A spokeswoman for Pat Quinn, who's been an outspoken gun critic, said only that the office is "reviewing the opinion." Attorney General Lisa Madigan has not yet decided whether to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.