SPRINGFIELD – The U.S. Supreme Court granted an extension Tuesday for Illinois's attorney general to decide whether to appeal a court order permitting the state's gun owners to carry concealed firearms.
Justice Elena Kagan granted a delay until July 22, essentially a second 30 days of leeway that allows Attorney General Lisa Madigan time to craft a response. She could also scuttle the whole matter if Gov. Pat Quinn signs concealed-carry legislation awaiting his response.
That's a separate deadline than the one on July 9, by which time Quinn must decide whether to make it legal to carry concealed guns.
The Chicago Democrat's office said Tuesday that the governor has not decided what action he'll take on the legislation. The attorney general's office released Kagan's order but did not have an immediate comment.
House Speaker Michael Madigan – the attorney general's father and a fellow Chicago Democrat – urged Quinn to sign the bill, which was a hard-fought compromise between the House and Senate.
"If you look at the vote in the House and the Senate it's pretty clear that the governor's veto could be overridden," Madigan said after an unrelated committee hearing Tuesday.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the state in December to enact a law allowing concealed weapons, ruling that the ban in Illinois – the last state in the nation without such a law – was violating residents' constitutional right to keep and bear arms. The court ordered a remedy by June 9, but when the General Assembly didn't send Quinn a bill until June 4, the attorney general convinced the appellate court to push that back by a month.
However, some eager Second Amendment loyalists aren't waiting. Despite not having a specific statute permitting it, law enforcement officials in as many as eight counties are either developing rules to allow gun-toting citizens or declaring they won't prosecute those found with concealed firearms. Prosecutors elsewhere, however, have warned against prematurely permitting public possession.
Tuesday's high court action gives Lisa Madigan more time to consider the appellate court ruling. The December decree gave her until late May to appeal. She had that extended once and now has another 30 days of leeway.
Madigan has said she needed the extra time to fashion a response based on other recent federal appellate court rulings, as well Quinn's decision. If Quinn signs the bill, she noted, an appeal would be moot.
Quinn has expressed concern about the legislation, initially favoring a highly restrictive law that allowed larger cities to enact their own rules on who could carry guns and where. The deal crafted between Chicago Democrats concerned about the city's gun violence and more conservative downstate gun-rights advocates does away with any local rule concerning handguns or their transport, but keeps in place key ordinances such as Chicago's ban on assault-style weapons.
Meanwhile, state's attorneys in several counties have been unwilling to wait, despite caution by some legal experts.
Macon County State's Attorney Jay Scott said he and Sheriff Tom Schneider plan to meet this week to talk over "sensible rules and regulations" for allowing concealed carry.
"We both are in favor of concealed carry," Scott told the (Decatur) Herald & Review on Monday, "but we have to make sure we don't leave any loopholes where the bad guys can continue to have guns."
White County State's Attorney Denton Aud has said he won't enforce an unconstitutional law. That means his county in far-southeast Illinois joins Madison, Randolph, Tazewell and Peoria counties, where local officials have said they won't prosecute otherwise law-abiding people for violating the ban.
Clinton County's sheriff has said anyone from counties that allow concealed weapons won't be arrested for carrying in his county. And in Woodford County, State's Attorney Gregory Minger said he agreed with the idea of allowing local citizens to carry concealed weapons but wanted to review options with local law enforcement authorities before taking action.
Despite the looser rules, Dewey Kraushaarr, owner of the Oak Ridge Sportsman's Club in Mackinaw, about halfway between Peoria and Bloomington-Normal in Tazewell County, has seen only two or three people packing guns.
"As far as I'm concerned, I would not take a chance like that," Kraushaar said. "They may not prosecute you, but they might give you a hassle."
The bill is HB183.
Online: http://www.ilga.gov .
Contact AP Political Writer John O'Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor
Associated Press writers Kerry Lester and David Mercer in Champaign, Ill., contributed to this report.